FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Having passenger rail service in Lima is one step closer to reality.
Lima Mayor David Berger joined Fort Wayne, Indiana, Mayor Tom Henry and members of the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association for a news conference Monday at Fort Wayne’s Baker Street Rail Station to announce an upcoming environmental analysis of proposed passenger rail set from Chicago to Columbus, with Lima, Kenton and Marysville as stops in Ohio. The $350,000 study, with a portion of funds coming through private donations to the Lima Community Foundation, is a necessary step to showing the Federal Railroad Administration that such a line is feasible for the region.
For Berger, this line would not only help with alternative transportation needs, but it would also spur economic development and regional marketing growth.
“This corridor plan is really about connections not just to the communities on each end, but also to the airports,” he said. “Whether it’s our folks want to get to an airport to travel away or inbound passengers looking to arrive in Columbus and, say, go to a university in our region or a business arriving in Chicago and looking to connect with a business along the route, this is a huge pipeline for economic development.”
This initial study, set to begin in January and conclude by late fall, will go through the project’s preliminary engineering, technical specifications, service planning and environmental effects along the route. Currently, the study will cover Chicago to Lima, with the eastern portion of the route still not having a contract for a study. Upon completion, should the Federal Railroad Administration permit funding, upgrades to existing tracks can begin. While optimistic viewpoints have limited service beginning on the line as early as 2020, Berger opted for a “wait and see” approach.
“I don’t know how to forecast the speed at which this will happen,” he said. “We’ve had hopes in the past of much more rapid deployment. I’m just glad we’re at this point.”
If successful, the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus corridor would offer such amenities as Wi-Fi and food service, with trains expected to reach initial maximum speeds of 75 miles per hour with the potential of 110 mile-per-hour trains in the future.
“It’s something I think is necessary for 21st century communities, to have practical, multimodal transporation options,” Berger said. “Without it, I think we’ll be left behind.”
For information on the proposed route, go to http://niprarail.org.