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Columbus to Chicago Rail Proposal Still on the Table

Brent Warren Brent Warren Columbus to Chicago Rail Proposal Still on the TableRendering via MORPC.
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Yesterday’s announcement that a hyperloop route between Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh will be further studied might leave some wondering — what happened to the proposal to build a high speed rail line on essentially the same route?

The passenger rail proposal, which would connect Columbus to Chicago by upgrading existing freight lines, is not dead. In fact, initial planning for the western portion of the route is underway, and the City of Columbus recently confirmed that it will financially support the effort, a commitment it was not willing to make late last year.

“The Ginther Administration has committed $250,000 to assist in the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Study of the eastern corridor,” said Robin Davis of the mayor’s office. “Once MORPC (the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission) provides the scope of work, the city will be able to move forward with legislation to transfer the funds…we anticipate moving forward in the next few months.”

Another $100,000 has been committed to the project from MORPC and the various Ohio counties along the route, according to a MORPC spokesperson.

“The current phase of planning that began last winter and continued into spring focused on the Gary, Indiana to Lima, Ohio segment,” explained Ken Prendergast, Executive Director of All Aboard Ohio, the pro-rail group that has been following the proposal closely. “With Central Ohio’s contribution, the planning work will add the Lima to Columbus portion…and when this current phase of environmental assessment is completed, they might be able to quickly move into engineering and design.”

HNTB, the consultant hired to examine the western portion of the route, has begun to identify potential station stops and to work out train frequencies and schedules, according to Prendergast.

A consultant will likely be selected this fall to do the same type of planning for the Columbus to Lima portion of the route.

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