Communities take the lead in building our Midwest network

November 06, 2018

Two weeks ago marked an exciting milestone for advocates in the Midwest. A study commissioned by a coalition of businesses and community members determined it would be feasible to restart passenger service on a corridor from Chicago towards Columbus, Ohio.

The study, commissioned by the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association and completed by HNTB, focuses on the stretch from Gary, Indiana to Lima, Ohio by way of Fort Wayne, Indiana. (The beautiful Pennsylvania Railroad station in Fort Wayne, pictured here, would once again host trains.) The study evaluated various service levels and speeds, and found a higher-speed service with 6 daily round-trips could carry 917,000 people every year.

From a Midwest perspective, this is a particularly important corridor, because it’s a key link in the larger network. The right-of-way is is arrow-straight. If it were purchased by the state or otherwise under public control, it could be a high-speed, high-capacity racetrack.

The corridor could serve more than just trains to Fort Wayne and Columbus. It’s a major route from Chicago to points east, like Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. Our 2011 study of a Midwest high-speed network shows you could get from Chicago to Cleveland in just 2 hours and 15 minutes at 220 mph by traveling along this corridor.

The lesson here lies in how the community of citizens and businesses, many from the Fort Wayne area, took their desire for a better way to travel and acted on it by funding this study.

Proving feasibility is the first step, before design and construction. It also inspires others. Now, the Toledo Area Metropolitan Council of Governments would like to study re-connecting Toledo to Detroit by rail. They were inspired by the recently completed study that evaluated trains between Ann Arbor and Traverse City, Michigan. That was also a community-driven project.

This is the sort of momentum we need to keep building on, not just for this corridor, but for the whole Midwest. When the community’s desire for a great way to travel is organized into action, we make progress toward our goal of fast, frequent and reliable trains throughout the Midwest.