Proponents of a high-speed rail connection between Fort Wayne and Chicago have raised $80,000 for a study that will look at the business case for the railway.
Geoff Paddock, a longtime advocate for high-speed rail, and Fred Lanahan, president of the board of Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association, announced the grant Thursday at Baker Street Station downtown – the site where passengers last took trains out of Fort Wayne more than 20 years ago.
The study will be performed by Transportation Economics and Management Systems, a consultant in Frederick, Md. Paddock said he expects the study to be finished by the end of the year so it's ready for “Indiana's next governor.”
He said the study will concentrate on the economic-development advantages for Fort Wayne and other cities along the route to Chicago, ranging from employment created in upgrading rail lines to faster freight conveyance using the same lines to easier incorporate travel to and from Chicago.
The study also will consider the benefits of high-speed lines extending from Fort Wayne through Lima, Ohio, and to Columbus, Ohio – a much larger city than Fort Wayne that also has no passenger rail service.
Half the money for the study came from the city of Fort Wayne and Allen County. The other half came in grants secured from Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, Indiana Michigan Power, Steel Dynamics Inc., the city of Lima and the Greater Lima Community Foundation, he said.
Referring to the study, Paddock said, “It is a next step. It's a significant step, and it's a step other communities are taking.”
“We're the largest city in the state without rail access,” Lanahan said. “We're one of the largest in the Midwest, probably behind Columbus, without rail service. … (The study) is going to show the economic benefits. It's going to show how many jobs it will create.”
Paddock said the new study – updating a similar study the same consultant did in 2002 – will provide a better estimate of the cost of upgrading rail lines to Chicago. He said estimates generally place the cost at $3 million-$5 million per mile – less than the cost of extending Interstate 69, which costs about $20 million per mile.