April 13, 2023 - The City of Fort Wayne has submitted the Midwest Connect corridor identification grant application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The goal is to plan and implement passenger rail service from Pittsburgh to Chicago via Fort Wayne & Columbus. The Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) and the City are partnering with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), and hundreds of others who have written letters of support for this proposal. NIPRA has provided private funding to contract with HNTB Consultants, which has championed the return of passenger rail service for many years, to help submit this proposal.
The FRA corridor identification funding is available to state and local governments through the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act of 2021. If the FRA grants the proposal, a $500,000 allotment would be made to the city. This stipend would cover a substantial amount of the investment for the next step, which is the preparation of a Service Development Plan that would advance the scope, schedule, and cost estimates for preliminarily engineering, environmental impact, and construction of a passenger rail line. The Service Development Plan is a critical prerequisite to applying for capital funding for passenger rail improvements; if awarded, the federal portion would cover between 80-90% of the costs of construction.
Mayor Tom Henry, Fifth District City Councilman Geoff Paddock, and NIPRA President Fred Lanahan, and NIPRA board members made the announcement at the former Baker Street Train Station, which served railroad passengers from 1914 to 1990. The station could be used again if rail service returns to Fort Wayne, to supplement the existing Amtrak service available in Waterloo.
“NIPRA and the City have worked for years to promote a passenger rail plan that would better serve thousands of people in northern Indiana,” said Mayor Henry. “This would create jobs and substantial economic activity in our city. If our proposal is selected by the FRA as a preferred route, federal funds may become available for the improvements needed to make this work.”
“Last August, a resolution I authored in support of the return of passenger rail, passed 8-1 on City Council,” said Councilman Paddock. “There is strong support to work with the FRA and INDOT to prioritize our route and receive federal funding to pay for up to 90% of the improvements needed. Submitting the Corridor ID grant is the next step along the way. This follows the federal guidelines. Our plan is one of two being submitted for our state, and I am optimistic it will be reviewed favorably.”
“NIPRA has worked with INDOT for many years to promote the return of passenger rail to the northern third of our state,” said NIPRA President Lanahan, “Thanks to the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act, over $66 Billion is available nationwide to make infrastructure improvements, remodel and build train stations, and introduce new train service for rail passengers.”
In addition to this proposal, INDOT is submitting a Corridor ID grant request to improve existing passenger rail service from Indianapolis to Chicago. It is believed a decision on grant recipients will be made by late summer.
Fort Wayne is the largest city in the state without passenger rail service. Columbus, Ohio is the largest city in the nation without passenger rail service. The proposed route would serve as an efficient and effective mobility resource to millions of people in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. This passenger rail service could create thousands of jobs in our region and be a major boost for Midwest connectivity.