PROGRESS AND PRESS

Passenger rail important piece to population puzzle   Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Posted Online: Thursday, June 8, 2017 11:00 pm

When northeast Indiana first became a center of economic activity way back when, it was in large part due to the waterways that brought trade to the Fort Wayne area.

Then, the railways became an integral piece of the puzzle.

However, in recent years, Indiana, the crossroads of America, is solidly included as one of the “flyover states,” featured in the Jason Aldean country song that a number of Hoosiers know every word to. They belt out with fever the lines: “Miles and miles of back roads and highways, Connecting little towns with funny names, Who’d want to live down there in the middle of nowhere, They’ve never drove through Indiana, Met the men who plowed that earth …”

But we can’t afford to be a flyover state. As we’ve said fervently the past two weeks, it is critical we find a way to attract more people.

By accepting that we are not a Los Angeles, a New York or Chicago – and thank goodness we aren’t given our lower tax rates and shorter commutes – we also need to recognize that the better connected we are to those business meccas, the more likely we are to attract workers.

For example, Grabill doesn’t appear so rural if you were able to drive 15 minutes or so, hop on a train and be in downtown Chicago in less than three hours. Now, when you think that you could be conducting business via your phone and Wi-Fi while aboard that train, living in Grabill becomes very economical and appealing because when you do need to go to the big city for work or pleasure, the trip isn’t a burden.

This is a major reason why the proposed Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail is a key piece to the talent attraction puzzle that leaders in northeast Indiana are working to solve.

This high-speed rail, with initial plans of traveling up to 75 miles per hour, could become a reality as early as 2020. A study is underway for the service and public input is being sought. The study, which began in January, is expected to be complete by late fall.

A number of key businesses and organizations have already gotten behind this project financially. These include Steel Dynamics, Orthoworx and Do it Best, in addition to local governmental entities.

We would encourage other companies in the region who have the financial ability and look to expand here in the future to also get behind the project financially.

As the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail group that is overseeing this project points out on its website, every dollar counts – whether it is $10 or $100.

If you want to learn more about this project and how it can boost our local economy, visit the website at niprarail.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A high-speed rail is just one step, but a needed one, to help our local economy continue to thrive despite the growing globalization and population challenges facing our small towns.

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For Release:     Thursday, May 25, 2017

Contact:           Fred Lanahan, NIPRA, 260-456-2590

Progress Continues on Passenger Rail Line from Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus

Fort Wayne, Ind. – An analysis examining possible operating plans and preliminary costs for a passenger rail line connecting Chicago to Fort Wayne and Columbus is on track to be complete by the last quarter of 2017.

HNTB, the contractor hired to complete the study, provided an update on the work during a recent meeting of passenger rail stakeholders hosted by Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA).

The analysis, formally called the Alternatives Analysis and Public Involvement Process, is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) under federal law in order to begin the rail project.

Once complete, the analysis could position the project for federal funding of design and construction of the passenger rail line. Supporters of passenger rail are optimistic limited service could begin by 2020.

As part of the work, HNTB will recommend the most efficient and effective route, operating speeds, train frequency, and station sites, as well as estimate ridership rates and possible revenue. Cost of the analysis is just under $350,000 and is being paid for with funding from cities and businesses along the corridor.

 “We are making great progress in our efforts to return passenger rail to Fort Wayne and northern Indiana and northwest Ohio,” said Geoff Paddock, longtime NIPRA member and Fort Wayne City Council member. “This passenger rail line will boost economic development efforts by connecting people and businesses throughout the region and it will enhance the quality of life for area residents.”

Also during the meeting, representatives from the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation presented updates on passenger rail initiatives across the two states. Representatives from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission announced that more than $300,000 has been committed by local Ohio communities along the line to complete the same type of Alternative Analysis and Public Involvement Process study for the Ohio side of the corridor.

The Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus corridor would provide high-quality passenger rail connections to 100 Midwest cities through a regional rail network that offers safe, comfortable and reliable service with amenities such as Wi-Fi and food service. Initial plans are for trains to travel at a maximum speed of approximately 75 miles per hour and eventually travel at 110 miles per hour. In many communities along the route, scheduled stops would take place at existing historic train stations, such as the Baker Street Train Station, 221 W. Baker St. More information about the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail can be found online at www.niprarail.org.

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Passenger Rail Service in Indiana

INDOT is currently updating the State Rail Plan. This link will take you to an online survey about passenger rail in Indiana.  http://www.in.gov/indot/3588.htmLink to the 2011 plan: http://www.in.gov/indot/files/Rail_JanFinal_Report_011712.pdf

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Hoosier State Passenger Rail

The Hoosier State Train and Amtrak's long-distance Cardinal services combine to provide daily roundtrip passenger rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago, which includes intermediate stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. For schedule information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Hoosier State or Amtrak website.   

Existing passenger rail services and operations are controlled by Amtrak and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NCTD/South Shore).  Indiana also has several tourist trains that operate in the state.  For more information about individual train schedules, please contact the operator directly.

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Amtrak

In addition to the Hoosier State and the Cardinal, Amtrak has two other services that travel through Indiana.  The Capital Limited runs daily between Chicago and Washington, DC with stops in Waterloo, Elkhart and South Bend, IN.  The Capitol Limited also has limited walk-on bike service.

The Lake Share Limited operates daily between Chicago and New York, with stops in South Bend, Elkhart and Waterloo, IN.  For more information about these services visit the Amtrak website at www.Amtrak.com.

INDOT has provided more than $1 million in financial assistance for capital improvements to the historic Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility. This infusion helped Amtrak renovate buildings used to expand repair services and secure jobs of Beech Grove and Indianapolis area residents.

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Midwest Regional Rail Initiative

The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission is an interstate compact of Midwestern state legislators, governors and their designees who believe that preservation and expansion of the existing passenger rail system is essential.  For more information, please visit the website at http://www.miprc.org/.

Midwestern states, through the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative have developed plans over the years to improve passenger rail service in this region. Indiana is one of eight member states which include Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

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Studies and Articles:

Northern Indiana/Ohio Passenger Rail Corridor Feasibility Study and Business Plan 2012

Northern IN/OH Passenger Rail Corridor Feasibility Study and Business Plan Executive Summary 2013

The Ohio & Lake Erie Regional Rail Ohio Hub Study 2007

Northern Indiana/Northwestern Ohio Routing Study 2002

Economic Impacts of Midwest High Speed Rail on the Orthopedics Industry of Warsaw, Indiana 2010

Intercity Passenger Rail is a Critical Resource for Midwestern College Students 2016