How does traveling the 303 miles from Columbus to Chicago in 3 hours, 45 minutes sound? Or from Lima to Chicago in under 2 hours, 30 minutes? That’s what a mix of express and local service trains along existing but upgraded, arrow-straight railroad rights of way between these cities could accomplish at a cost far less than what it would take to build an Interstate highway in this travel corridor. Imagine the economic benefits this could bring to cities and businesses along this route. Actually, you don’t have to imagine….
Our friends at the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association have released a very important Feasibility Study and Business Plan that will help all stakeholders, including All Aboard Ohio, educate our elected officials on the need for fast passenger trains in this busy travel corridor. Despite the travel demand in this corridor, there is no Interstate highway serving it, which also means bus service is slow and therefore not attractive. There is airline service, but flights can be expensive, especially to/from Fort Wayne. And for travelers bound for downtown Chicago — the Midwest’s economic capital — the train will actually be faster and less expensive than any other travel mode. For some, the train can act as the connecting flight to reach the global economy via airports in Chicago and Columbus.
Columbus — the Midwest’s third-largest city — deserves better transportation. It is the largest city in America without any passenger train or light-rail transit services. Also note the Fort Wayne is the second-largest city in Indiana. Its economic orientation is to Chicago. With a fast rail link to reach Chicago in less than two hours, Fort Wayne would be a more attractive, low-cost and high quality-of-life setting for businesses including corporate offices, the study found.
Specifically, the study noted these benefits:
- 12,000 temporary jobs and 26,800 permanent jobs resulting from this project;
- Generate $7.1 billion in increased output for the region’s businesses;
- Generate $6 billion worth of direct user benefits over the 30-year life of the project;
- Start-up costs estimated at $4 million per mile vs. 10 times that for Interstate highway construction;
- For every $1 invested in this project, an economic return of $1.70 is forecast.
- 2.1 million riders in 2020, rising to 3.3 million by 2040, with 79% of riders diverted from cars;
- Reduced emissions, traffic and dependence on expensive fuel;
- Rail fares set at 2/3 that of air fares will generate annual farebox revenue of $116 million in 2020 rising to $190 million by 2040.
The next step is to secure funding for a Tier I environmental assessment for corridor development planning. Please share this study with community leaders, business persons and others when communicating the need for improved transportation to your area. Only through education can we win — and we need your help to spread the word! Let’s start today!