City & County May Be Collaborating On A Passenger Rail Study For Downtown Connection

The Allen County commissioners are considering taking part in a study to provide passenger train service from Fort Wayne to northern Indiana and Chicago.

Whether the county joins Fort Wayne, Warsaw and several other communities by contributing money for a study by the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association will be discussed Friday.

“This is an opportunity to bring passenger rail service to northeast Indiana,” Commissioner Therese Brown said.

Brown said the issue is distinctly different from current campaigns for local high-speed rail service.

Currently, people wishing to travel to Chicago by train must board in Waterloo, about 30 miles north of Fort Wayne. Brown said the service to be studied would be in addition to the service that currently connects through Waterloo, South Bend and Elkhart and doesn’t travel through Allen County.

“This (service) would just eliminate some travel time for some of the commuters,” she said.

The broad-based study is an effort to approach the state with a solid business plan for bringing rail service – probably Amtrak – back to Fort Wayne, said Fred Lanahan, Citilink board president.

The group plans to raise just over $120,000 for the rail corridor studies – $80,000 for the Fort Wayne-to-Chicago service and $20,000 each for projects to link Fort Wayne to Columbus and Toledo. The Toledo venture would include a spur to Detroit, Lanahan said.

The fundraising group is close to collecting the $80,000 needed to move forward with the Fort Wayne-to-Chicago study, Lanahan said.

The Ohio studies will take place as the funds accumulate, he said.

While Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association will commission the studies, they will be done by experts from a transport economics company in Frederick, Md., Lanahan said.

Fort Wayne has not had passenger rail service since 1990.

In August, the Citilink board awarded a $4.4 million contract for renovation of the downtown Baker Street Station at 121 Baker St. The project includes a 2,700-square-foot transfer station equipped with indoor restrooms, an information center and a drivers’ lounge, as well as two large canopies to protect waiting passengers from rain and snow.

Much of the infrastructure from the old station is still there, and it would be a perfect fit, Brown said.

“It’s a wonderful asset and opportunity for the community, Brown said.

The commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. Friday in the courtroom on the basement level of Citizens Square, 200 E. Berry St.

-Journal Gazette

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Categories: Amtrak, Goverment, High Speed Rail, Transit

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