NORTHERN INDIANA/OHIO PASSENGER RAIL CORRIDOR STUDY
Update on Passenger Rail Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus Corridor
As we head into mid-May of 2017, the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) is busy working on strengthening its message and clarifying its mission. In talks with the Federal Railroad Administration, (FRA), it was determined that a full Tier 1 EIS is not necessary at this point of the project as the rail line from Tolleston into Lima is all existing right-of-way. FRA agreed that for this project an Environmental Assessment (EA) would be appropriate. This less intensive review is appropriate at this point in the study, particularly on this section of the corridor utilizing existing right-of-way. NIPRA has hired HNTB to work on portions of the EA. When more funds are raised, we will work with the FRA to complete the full EA work. Since the Business Plan commissioned by NIPRA is now five years old and conditions have changed, freight rail traffic on the corridor has also changed. In some cases track conditions have been improved or may have deteriorated, so this EA work will be the due diligence needed to ensure that our corridor is primed to progress when local, state and federal agencies have funding identified.
Recent discussions with corridor partners, indluding INDOT and FRA staff, produced the recommendation that NIPRA work toward updating and lobbying for support from State legislators and the Governor. INDOT staff emphasized that it will be very important at budget time to have executive and legislative support for the project. FRA indicated that the federal government is more likely to assist a project if it has strong state supporrt. NIPRA board members have started meeting with Indiana legislators and have encouraged Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) to gather suport in Ohio. MORPC staff are also coordinating bi-weekly calls with the Ohio partners and encouraging their fund-raising efforts to begin the preliminary data collection similar to what NIPRA has already had completed from Tolleston into Lima.
There are plans to have a Corridor-wide partnership meeting on May 24, 2017 to update the partner agencies, educate on funding available for station improvements and strategize on future efforts. Future work needed includes decisions on a management entity for the corridor itself, discussions on project oversight of future EIS work, financing decisions, and, perhaps, naming the corridor.
Click HERE to download the Executive Summary of this Rail Feasibility Study.
Click MOA to read Memorandum of Agreement