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Rail Advocate Optimistic About Columbus to Chicago High Speed Line

Brent Warren Brent Warren Rail Advocate Optimistic About Columbus to Chicago High Speed Line
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Since a proposal for high-speed passenger rail from Columbus to Chicago was first unveiled last summer, interest in the idea has been strong. Mayor Coleman’s office called the idea “promising,” local advocacy group Transit Columbus saw an outpouring of support on social media, and the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has since said that they are committed to exploring the feasibility of the concept.

Fred Lanahan, President of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association – the organization that spearheaded the original study – will be speaking at All Aboard Ohio’s annual meeting on May 17 in Gahanna. We reached out to Lanahan to see if he could provide some background on the proposal, the role that different stakeholders are playing in the effort, and his thoughts on the next steps needed to take the idea from dream to reality.

Q: This proposal seemed to really stem from the work of advocates in Fort Wayne – can you give some background as to how the idea started?

A: As a condition of eventual support from the State of Indiana, INDOT insisted on a “business plan” that would support a Fort Wayne to Chicago passenger rail corridor. Fort Wayne to Chicago, standing alone, does not have “independent utility” as the Federal Railroad Administration defines that term. Therefore, the corridor needed to be extended into Ohio for planning purposes.

The opportunity to participate in the Feasibility Study was offered to Toledo as well as to Lima and Columbus. At that time (2012), Lima and Columbus accepted and became participants in and contributors to the study. Mayor Berger in Lima has been a long-time supporter of a rail connection to his city.

Columbus was attractive as the eastern terminus of the corridor for several reasons:

  • The Ohio Hub Plan, completed in the mid-2000’s by the Ohio Rail Development Commission, foresaw regional connections from Columbus to Chicago through Fort Wayne; and to Pittsburgh via Newark, Coshocton, and Steubenville.
  • Columbus is the largest city in Ohio, and the largest city in the U.S. not served by any form of passenger rail.
  • Columbus also has a major regional airport that could become the eastern terminus of the passenger rail line.

Q: What has been the response from the different cities on the route?

A: All of the cities identified as stations in the Feasibility Study/Business Plan are engaged as partners in preparation for the next phase of pre-development, which is the “Tier One” Environmental Impact Study. In addition, several of the counties are also participating (Allen Co, IN; Kosciusko Co, IN; Porter Co, IN) as well as business and industry groups such as OrthoWorx, Inc. in Warsaw.

Most encouraging so far has been the engagement of the colleges and universities. Grace College & Seminary in Winona Lake, IN; Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, and Valparaiso University in Valparaiso have just made their commitments. There are over 140 colleges and universities along the Columbus to Chicago corridor with over 896,000 students.

Q: The next step is the Tier One Environmental Impact Study, are you optimistic that the funds will be raised to complete it?

A: Yes, we are optimistic that the necessary funds will be raised for the Tier I EIS study for this passenger rail project. The Indiana partners have taken the lead in fund raising, but the Ohio partners are now engaged and catching up in pursuit of funds for their portion of the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail project. We expect that funds and commitments for funds will be in place to launch the Tier I study by late summer to early fall 2014.

More information about the May 17th meeting is available at www.allaboardohio.org. 

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

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  • TaraK

    Please, please, please, please.

  • As someone who was born, raised and spent most of my life in Columbus and just recently purchased a great house in an older historic neighborhood in Fort Wayne, this would be incredible.

  • King Gambrinus

    I think this would be absolutely amazing, but I am curious if this were to move forward what the time frame would be on having something in place and usable?

    I have a bad feeling this isn’t the kind of thing that comes together in a couple years.

  • Geno99

    Putting the Airport on a rail line is a no-brainier that expands seamless travel.

    But I still don’t see anything other than a PowerPoint presentation here. In the immortal words of Clara Peller: “Where’s the beef?”.

    • From the article: “We expect that funds and commitments for funds will be in place to launch the Tier I study by late summer to early fall 2014.”

  • bjones7

    Highspeed from Columbus to Chicago 2020 with fingers crossed!

  • pilato

    Isn’t it ironic that the political party that pulled the plug on the 3-C Corridor Passenger Rail project just found out that one of the reasons why Columbus wasn’t selected as the site for the Republican National Convention had to do with the lack of regular rail passenger service? Oops! There goes all of those convention $$$$!

    • Graybeak

      It’s like 10,000 spoons, when all you need is a knife.

  • NEOBuckeye

    I’d be optimistic myself if 3Cs-killer Kasich wasn’t driving on cruise control towards re-election as governor. Don’t underestimate that thickheaded fool’s ability to stave off progressive initiatives like this from going anywhere as long as he reigns unchecked over this state.

    Barring federal intervention or massive public action, it will be at least 2019 before we see planning set back in motion here for what we should have had by now, if not all along. Maybe by 2023 we will see a groundbreaking, and perhaps by 2030 we could see inter-city high speed rail arrive in this part of the Midwest. I’m still not holding my breath at this point.

  • jamaltheblack

    People were all missing the boat here. Now, we know in all equations Time=Money. Once the plan is developed, then immediately the State county and city can begin to offer job creation initiatives. Along with several tax programs allowing numerous developers and construction companies to hire only local or state registered workers. By us doing the project in mass we should get tremendous deals on materials

    • whitemice

      Once the plan is developed…. it will be mostly ignored, except by the people who freak out at the cost or just love to attach the word “boondoggle” to anything and everything. Those who oppose the project will be the only ones motivated to do anything – it will get drummed to death at the polls or languish in court cases where lawyers will absorb absurd amounts of money. Advocates are few and far between, and all the people who would benefit the most can’t be bothered.

      How come the article glosses over that it was Ohio that kicked the Midwest High Speed Rail Initiative to the curb? Those same parties are still here today. What has substantively changed?

  • jamaltheblack

    cont….(from first comment)

    labor cost and travel cost

  • rstern5


    When I used the ‘read more’ hyperlink in the article, “How much is Columbus Missing Out on Without Rail Transit?” , it redirected me to an article about OSU football, not the rail story I anticipated. How do I access your full article?

  • rstern5

    thanks for your rapid response.

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