Thursday, August 07, 2014

Nine Indiana, Ohio mayors to sign agreement supporting Chicago to Columbus passenger rail

Fort Wayne, Ind., Mayor Tom Henry and the mayors of eight other cities plan to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) calling for cooperation in development of a Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail corridor.

The Indiana cities include Fort Wayne, Warsaw, Plymouth, Valparaiso and Gary. The Ohio cities represented are Columbus, Marysville, Kenton and Lima.

The MOA calls for the parties "...to systematically and incrementally develop the higher-speed rail intercity system in cooperation with existing freight rail operators and owners of right‐of-way along a corridor from Chicago to Columbus through northern Indiana, hereafter known as the Northern Indiana/Ohio High Speed Rail Initiative."

Specifically, the MOA resolves that the parties will work together to secure funding for the federally-required Environmental Impact Study (EIS), the next step in developing the passenger rail line. The EIS would examine the preliminary engineering, technical analysis, service planning and environmental impacts along several different routes in order to determine the preferred route for locating the rail lines. Once complete, the EIS would be submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration. This study could begin in late 2014 and would take 18 months to complete.

"This is a big step forward in the effort to bring passenger rail back to our community," said Mayor Henry. "The Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus corridor will be good for citizens throughout northern Indiana and central Ohio. It will increase transportation alternatives and help boost economic development and tourism."

A rail corridor feasibility study concluded that approximately 2.1-million riders would use the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus route in 2020, with that number growing to more than three million in 2040. The study also estimated that for every $1 of investment, $1.70 would be generated in economic return through job growth and increased property values. The study was completed in 2013 by Transportation Economics & Management Systems, Inc. for the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association.

The 300-mile-long passenger rail corridor would operate up to 12 trains daily, each direction, along the route. Express services would link downtown Chicago to Columbus in less than four hours.

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