All Aboard Ohio and the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) have jointly worked to secure funding for a feasibility study that will build a business case for the return of rail service from Chicago to Fort Wayne, with plans to extend service to Lima and Columbus, OH. That study officially got underway in early August.
Fort Wayne City Councilman Geoff Paddock, a founding board member of NIPRA and Fred Lanahan, President of NIPRA’s Board of Directors announced that $80,000 has been raised to launch the Northern Indiana/Ohio Passenger Rail Corridor Study and Business Plan. This study will be conducted by Transportation Economics and Management Systems, Inc, (TEMS) which has experience in analyzing the potential benefits of transportation systems in the United States, particularly passenger rail.
“This is the next step for NIPRA in its efforts to see passenger rail return to Fort Wayne and Northern Indiana,” said Paddock. “State officials, including Governor (Mitch) Daniels, have urged those interested in promoting rail service to substantiate its economic benefits to the state.
“The TEMS study will highlight the economic impact rail has and the number of jobs that could be created. The business plan will go far beyond previous studies to develop financing and funding arrangements that could sustain rail service into the future. The study will also lay groundwork for an assessment of potential public/private partnerships, including freight, that could work to implement rail service,” Paddock added.
“The bar has been set high to reestablish passenger rail service in this corridor,” said Mr. Lanahan, also the board president of Citilink, Fort Wayne transit agency. “We are mindful that ridership and revenue numbers need to be strong to help sustain operation of a rail system. This includes working closely with freight lines.”
Half ($40,000) of the funding was secured by Mayor Tom Henry, and County Commissioners Linda Bloom, Therese Brown, and Nelson Peters. All have shown strong support for returning rail service and all believe rail development will bring hundreds of jobs to this area. Other funding for the study was secured by grants from the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, Indiana and Michigan Power, Steel Dynamics, Inc., the City of Lima, Ohio, and the Greater Lima Community Foundation.
The TEMS study will concentrate on the economic development advantages for Fort Wayne and the cities along the route to Chicago. TEMS will also look at economic advantages to adding service from Fort Wayne to Lima and Columbus, Ohio, and then connecting to Pittsburgh and other eastern cities. The study is to be completed by year’s end, in order to present to the next governor of Indiana, who takes office in January.
“This study will update a previous one made by TEMS in 2002 and provide fresh economic data. We hope it will convince the state to look more favorably at rail development, particularly here in an area that has been underserved for over two decades. Fort Wayne can support passenger rail service,” Paddock said.