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Planning Work Continues on Columbus to Chicago High Speed Rail Idea

Brent Warren Brent Warren Planning Work Continues on Columbus to Chicago High Speed Rail Idea
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Although it’s been nearly two years since we first reported on the proposal to build a high-speed passenger rail connection between Columbus and Chicago, the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has quietly kept up their planning efforts, coordinating communication among the local jurisdictions along the proposed line and supporting two separate proposals submitted last fall to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that would pay for the next step in the process, a Tier One Environmental Impact Statement.

MORPC recently found out that one of those proposals was turned down – a $3.2 million grant request submitted by the Indiana Department of Transportation was not selected for funding by the FRA. Bernice Cage of MORPC said that they are in the process of scheduling a debriefing session with FRA staff, “to understand how our application ranked against the others so that we may strengthen future funding applications.”

MORPC is still waiting to hear about a second federal application, this one submitted by the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC).

The MIPRC proposal asks that the FRA take the lead on planning for the whole Midwest Region, which would include the Chicago to Columbus route as one of many proposed corridors. The FRA solicited this type of regional proposal, saying that the agency would provide all of the funding for the project they selected, taking it all the way through the assessment and planning stages.

“These are small steps, but they are good, healthy steps,” said Thea Walsh, director of Transportation Systems and Funding at MORPC. For these types of complex, expensive, and large-scale projects, “it’s about consistent, methodical planning all throughout the process, so that when the right political window is open, whether that is now or in the future, we can take advantage of that opportunity.”

Although good news on the MIPRC proposal would certainly help to push the process along, Walsh said that even if the FRA turns that down as well, the Columbus to Chicago project would be far from dead.

“The only thing that shuts it down for MORPC is if our members don’t support it,” she said. “We work for our members, so the way I see it, if the FRA doesn’t support it, we’re prepared to start talking and continue fundraising efforts to raise the $3.2 million dollars – that may not necessarily be a slower approach, and it’s something they are definitely ready to do in Indiana.”

Walsh also sees potential in the three planning initiatives happening now in Columbus – the city’s Connect Columbus, MORPC’s Metropolitan Transportation Plan and COTA’s NextGen process – to move the conversation about regional connectivity forward.

“With all three of these coming together,” she said, “it seems like a good time for central Ohio to start thinking about other ways to get around our region.”

For further discussion on the proposal, CLICK HERE to visit our messageboard.

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  • columbusmike

    These studies and funding requests take so incredibly long that it’s painful. Thanks CU for the update on this really important project….good to hear things are moving along.

  • paul.szuter

    Is anyone close with Bill Gates? Think he’ll spare us some change?

  • mbeaumont

    Wish Les Wexner was more interested in downtown and mass transit. He’s done a lot of great things for the community, but alas…

  • Doug Fantastic

    @mbeaumount
    I couldn’t agree more. The money used to create New Albany was a wasted opportunity. Not his obligation, of course, but a shame.

  • WilliamWallace1

    High-speed rail would be great to Chicago for Cbus. Although, I’ve always questioned why the preference is to go up, then over, through Fort Wayne. Why not go over (West) towards Indy, then up (North) to Chicago. Indy is a much more attractive intermediate stop, right?? Also- does this progress the push for light rail in Columbus?? God I hope so, b/c it’s long over-due and COTA seems terrified to talk about it

  • bscncol

    Thea Walsh is the lady to make all this come together (and the team at MORPC). One day Columbus + Chicago, one day.

  • As much as I would love to see a connection between Columbus and Chicago I just wonder why. It seems a stretch to me that if we can’t get rail between Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland then why would Chicago stand a better chance? I think the link for Columbus to Chicago would be made stronger if the line continued on to Washington DC.

  • WilliamWallace1, I think the proposed route goes through Fort Wayne because Forte Wayne is really who got the ball rolling on this line I believe.

  • I doubt you’ll find anyone not up for supporting this. If federal and state can come together with the private sectors to make mass transit a thing across the midwest then that would mean jobs for everyone and better access to these cities.

  • lbl

    Its a shame that Ohio can’t seem to get public rail off the ground.
    even Florida is moving forward on their Miami to Orlando route.
    http://www.allaboardflorida.com/

  • toledo

    Ohio is: Cincinnati-Dayton-Columbus, and Cleveland-Akron-Pittsburgh. Give Toledo back to Michigan, your canal was a bust.

  • rudyniederer

    Go to http://www.cascadiahighspeedrail.com/
    and see my work, maybe you may ask me for help!
    Rudy

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