Although a previous study convinced the state to include Fort Wayne on a proposed route for high-speed rail service in 2002, the present effort is focused on less-expensive traditional passenger service, which Amtrak moved to tracks running through Waterloo more than 20 years ago. The latest study will explore such factors as the proposed service's financial viability, its impact on the economy and environment and possible construction cost, which Davis said could exceed $1 million for each of the 145 miles between Fort Wayne and Chicago.
Fort Wayne has already pledged $20,000 toward the study and the Community Foundation of Fort Wayne has pledged $10,000. Support will also be sought from businesses and other communities along the route, Davis said. The most likely route through Fort Wayne would be the former Amtrak line running just south of downtown, Davis said. It is now used primarily by freight carriers.
Commissioner Nelson Peters said he hoped the study will also help identify possible sources of construction funds. Davis noted that proposed legislation would allow communities to impose taxes earmarked for rail and other mass-transit projects.
Commissioner Therese Brown said improved rail service would benefit existing companies, such as Steel Dynamics Inc., and help attract new employers to the area. “This is just one more piece to the (economic development) puzzle,” she said.