The Federal Railroad Administration along with Norfolk Southern and the states of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan are contributing a total of $4 million to make it easier for existing and expanded passenger rail service to access Chicago to/from the east. Existing and future passenger trains to/from Ohio will be an important beneficiary.
The funding will pay for preliminary engineering and environmental assessments of building a 40-mile-long, double-track passenger rail corridor from Porter, Indiana into the heart of downtown Chicago. This engineering work will identify a preferred route, capital costs, how to mitigate impacts on natural and built environments, and economic benefits to users and affected communities.
Although the planning is sought by stakeholders seeking to improve access to Chicago for 10 daily 110-mph passenger trains to/from Michigan and up to 90 NS freight trains per day, there is another beneficiary. Also due to use a new passenger-only route into Chicago are four daily Amtrak trains to/from the East Coast via the Ohio stations of Bryan, Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria, Cleveland and Alliance. These trains to Boston, New York, and Washington DC carried more than 600,000 people in 2011, according to Amtrak. Through service to Philadelphia is due to be added in 2013 which will also provide a second daily Chicago-New York City round trip.
“All Aboard Ohio and other organizations are seeking more passenger trains on this route to respond to growing ridership and sold-out conditions,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “NS freight traffic congestion seriously limits the opportunity to expand Amtrak service from Ohio cities to Chicago. A passenger-only route west of Porter will open the gate to Chicago for more rail business.”
A railroad corridor with two tracks can easily accommodate several times more than the existing 14 daily passenger trains which must use the busy NS mainline. That leaves a lot of room for future passenger rail growth, including for multiple daily passenger trains to the East Coast via existing and potential routes through Ohio.
One of those potential routes will be a topic of discussion at All Aboard Ohio’s Annual Meeting to be held 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday May 19 at The Golf Village at Central Park, 789 Science Blvd., Gahanna, OH (near the Port Columbus International Airport). CLICK HERE for directions and map. RSVP by May 16 by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and pay at the door ($25 per member, $45 per non-member but includes a 1-year membership in All Aboard Ohio).
A guest speaker will be Richard Davis of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association who will provide an update of progress on starting a feasibility study of linking Columbus, Lima, Fort Wayne, Chicago and other cities with modern, comfortable, affordable passenger trains. The update will include a list of communities that have agreed to sponsor the study, which is separate from but can be mutually beneficial to the Porter-Chicago planning.