Derrick James, an emissary from Amtrak, stood in a train station where trains no longer arrive. He faced 400 to 500 people who made it clear through their chants and cheers that they want to see trains come back to Fort Wayne. James got the message.
“If the enthusiasm here is any measure, any guide to whether we're going to get passenger rail service back in Fort Wayne, I'm saying we'll get it,” James said late Friday afternoon.
James, a senior government affairs officer at Amtrak, was one of the draws in a Rally for Rail at the Baker Street Station, 221 W. Baker St. He said the administration of President Barack Obama is much more sympathetic to rail transportation, so much so that Amtrak is looking at the city again.
“We are absolutely committed to working with the state of Indiana to put Fort Wayne back on the map,” James said.
Other speakers Friday warned those in the audience that they have to do more than wait for rails to appear from Washington. Getting passenger service back here requires pressure on state legislators and Gov. Mitch Daniels. City Councilwoman Karen Goldner, D-2nd, urged those in the crowd to e-mail their legislators Friday night and write a letter to Daniels today, asking them to appropriate the funding needed for engineering work.
Lima, Ohio, Mayor David Berger said he's been fighting to get Amtrak service back to Fort Wayne and Lima since it was ended in 1990. Frankly, he said, Indiana is holding up the effort. “We absolutely depend on the citizens of Fort Wayne and Indiana” to re-establish a line that brings rail service back to Lima. In Ohio, the governor is backing the resumption of passenger rail service linking Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, he said.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry likewise exhorted the people at the Baker Street Station to let elected officials know how much they care about bringing passenger service back to Fort Wayne.
“I look forward to being able to board a train in downtown Fort Wayne, but only if we take action and take action now,” Henry said.