Moving at speeds of
up to 110 miles per hour, Porter County could see a high speed rail line in
operation by 2020.
At least that’s the
hope of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association which is waging a
campaign to prepare the Chicago, Ft. Wayne & Eastern line for high speed
passenger cars that could travel from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio, a distance
of about 300 miles, in less than four hours.
The current plans
show that the line would make a stop in Valparaiso, NIPRA President Fred
Lanahan said. It would run south of Duneland. Other stops include the
Gary/Chicago Airport, Plymouth, Warsaw and Fort Wayne in Indiana and Lima
and Columbus in Ohio.
Most of those
communities have already made financial commitments toward Indiana’s half of
the $2 million needed for an environmental impact study needed before
engineering can begin, Lanahan said.
The City of
Valparaiso has said it will commit $50,000 toward the effort. Lanahan, along
with NIRPA transportation and management consultant Richard Davis and Fort
Wayne urban planner Tom Walls, asked the County Commissioners Tuesday if
they could pick up the remaining $20,000 NIRPA is seeking from Porter
The group said that
it projects for every $1 communities invest toward the rail, a return of
$1.71 once the rail is in operation. After three years in operation, the
line is anticipated to be generating a $40 million surplus of funds.
26,800 new jobs will be created between the three states as a result.
the corridor will benefit from the access,” said Davis. “It’s not going to
work unless it’s a partnership and everyone has a stake in it.”
NIPRA is centered
in Ft. Wayne, which would be the hub for the rail. The Commissioners of
Allen County have agreed to spend $50,000 toward the study and the City of
Ft. Wayne has also showed enthusiasm with $20,000, Lanahan said.
commitments are made, the Indiana Department of Transportation is looking to
provide a match for the funds. There are private companies that also have
great interest in high-speed rail and are willing to kick in funds, Davis
said, making the project a viable private-public partnership.
Ten trains per day
will initially transport passengers from end-to-end. More trains would be
added incrementally, said Lanahan.
Davis said the fare
for a passenger traveling from Valparaiso to Chicago will be $19 for
business class and $15 for economy class.
Lanahan said NIPRA
plans to talk to more communities in Ohio with the goal to one day expand
the rail line to Pittsburgh, giving residents the ability to travel to
Chicago and to the East Coast.
Trends show that
more young people are choosing to commute by passenger train and are less
likely to own a vehicle, Lanahan said. Older residents are riding more
frequently as well, he added.
Walls said concepts
and funding for high speed rail were introduced by the federal government
during the early 1990s during President George H.W. Bush’s term. The trains
would not move as fast as the speeding bullet trains found overseas which
travel above 200 mph.
“It certainly is
not your mom and dad’s train but it’s not like the science fiction stories
you’ve read about,” Walls said.
Railroad Administration is expected to pay the lion’s share of the final
costs on the environmental study. Each mile of rail would cost between $3
million to $4 million per mile for a total estimate of over $1 billion.
President John Evans, R-North, said he’s “intrigued to say the least” by the
project but advised he wanted to allow more time for his board to discuss a
He asked the group
who will be the operator for the rail. Davis said that will likely be
Evans said the
Commissioners will likely have its decision made on the request for $20,000
at their first meeting in May.