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City Holds Public Meetings On Passenger Rail Line

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HNTB
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A public meeting was held at the downtown Allen County Public Library Wednesday for the proposed Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail line.

This was the second of four meetings being hosted by the City of Fort Wayne, Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) and HNTB Corporation.

Mayor Tom Henry and 5th District councilman Geoff Paddock announced the goal to construct a passenger rail line extending from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio, with a stop in Fort Wayne, in December, 2016.

The city has not had passenger rail service since 1990; Paddock says the effort to bring back service began as far back as 1998.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires projects of this scope to be planned out, from the purpose and need to completion of engineering concepts. Public information meetings are also part of that plan.

Caron Kloser is the associate vice president of HNTB, a firm contracted by the city to help assess potential routes, best practices for operating the rail, and the environmental survey. Kloser says it can take eight to ten years before service begins.

“This process is long for a reason, because it’s a very intentional process," Kloser said. "We have coordination with the public, the agencies, the freight railroads.”

Even though a rail does run through Fort Wayne, it needs repairs, as do the stations along the proposed route, all of which have gone unused for nearly three decades.

So, what’s the next step?

“Working on federal funding that would allow the project to move into environmental, so that we can get those clearances," she said. "Continue on freight and passenger modeling, so we can refine the infrastructure needs to try and bring the cost down.”

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