Intermodal facility – good news for Passenger Rail Service?

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A project announced at the end of August, 2007, is beginning to come together according to Greg Leatherman, Redevelopment Executive Director.  Transpoint LLC, plans to develop an approximately 300 acre intermodal ramp and logistics park in Fort Wayne,  located at the northeast corner of Adams Center and Paulding Roads.

Leatherman reported that a significant amount of progress has been made in a couple of areas.  The biggest of these areas is the securing of a reliable rail path from Chicago to Fort Wayne.  The rail line that runs through this area is the former Pennsylvania Railroad lines which became Conrail and most recently Rail America.  This line runs through Fort Wayne to Chicago on the west and all the way to Pittsburgh, via Lima, on the east end.

The securing and reliability of a rail path into Chicago virtually assures that one of the hindrances to bringing rail passenger service back to Fort Wayne and Lima, Ohio has been removed.  A recent Rally for Passenger Rail sponsored by the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association brought almost a thousand people in support to the Baker Street Train Station.  It was only a few years ago that rumors abounded amongst local rail fans about the removal of rail connections on the Chicago end of this line.  In fact, I think a few “diamonds” or crossings  in the northwest area of Indiana were removed at one point.  If this intermodal facility is realized, it will mean a daily stream of trains travelling between Chicago and Fort Wayne.  This easy availability of a rail connection means truck companies will no longer have to pick up containers in Chicago and haul them to Fort Wayne and vice-versa.  It will also alleviate some of the congestion in Chicago at the existing container facilities.  

Greg mentioned several bigger picture problems which may be addressed by this facility as well.  The Panama Canal is currently undergoing work to enable it to accommodate the super-size container ships now being built.  On the east coast, many tunnels are still being widened to accommodate double stack traffic.  This lack of capacity translates into congestion on the limited number of routes that can carry existing traffic. A National Rail Gateway project is underway that will also add infrastructure to address congestion issues.  Congestion at the western ports also presents problems.  At Chicago, the Canadian National Railways (CN) connects and would be able to divert containers to the Prince Rupert Harbour in BC Canada.

All in all, this is a very good thing economically for not only Fort Wayne, but the region as well.

The reason this was brought before the Redevelopment Commission is Transpoint is seeking a change in the zoning of the property from IN2 to IN3.  Only lots 1 and 2, or approximately 50 acres are currently being asked for rezoning.  In not rezoning all of the property in question at this point, some control is retained by the City over what uses could be experienced on the project.  The main difference between IN2 and IN3 in regards to this request is that IN3 allows for the storage of containers outside.

I might mention this land came to Redevelopment as a donation from the now defunct Chem Waste when they closed down the Adams Center Landfill.  The price has already been established at around $2,000 per acre.

Commissioner Judi Wire expressed concerns about possible hazardous materials carried in the containers leaking and causing environmental damage to some wetlands that are in close proximity.  Redevelopment Attorney John Wernet responded that there are already covenants in place regarding restrictions on hazardous materials and these would remain in force regardless of a sale of the property.

For other notes on the Redevelopment Commission meeting, see this post.


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