Rally for Rail: Rolling Forward – 1/16/2010

Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Assocation logo

Geoff Paddock, Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association board member, has submitted a guest column to local newspapers.

He has graciuosly given permission for it to be included on this blog:

Rally for Rail. Rolling Forward!
By Geoff Paddock, Board Member of NIPRA, Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association

Last April, nearly 1,000 people attended a Rally for Rail at the Baker Street Train Station in downtown Fort Wayne. The purpose of the rally, sponsored by the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA), was to gather support for the return of passenger rail service to Northeastern Indiana. The reaction of the enthusiastic attendees was to support the return of this service, and to encourage the state to work on connecting Fort Wayne with Chicago and Cleveland on the proposed Midwest High Speed Rail Network.

Three months later on July 9, State Senator Tom Wyss and NIPRA hosted Michael Reed, the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation for an update on this important issue. Mr. Reed stated that Gov. Mitch Daniels and many area state legislators had heard the message from the citizens who attended the rally and sent hundreds of post cards of support. Mr. Reed promised that INDOT would pursue funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to conduct a preliminary study of the Fort Wayne to Chicago/Cleveland rail line. The application was submitted in October.

It is clear citizens are being heard on this issue, and it is important to keep the momentum going. The Federal Rail Administration has received dozens of applications from almost all 50 states. These applications total some $58 billion and are in competition for $8 billion in stimulus funds appropriated by Congress earlier this year. This money can improve our economy by creating jobs and connecting cities that have not been served by rail for decades.

Fort Wayne lost service at the Baker Street Station in 1990. It is clear from the rally in April and the meeting with INDOT in July, that citizens in Fort Wayne want rail service to return. There is every indication that enough people would take a train to Chicago, to make this an attractive addition for Amtrak to offer.

Indiana’s commitment to the Midwest High Speed Rail network could mean up to 4,500 jobs in Indiana in the decade ahead. Some of those jobs, like replacing aging rail lines, could be secured at our Steel Dynamics plants. Train travel would help us reduce the amount of foreign oil utilized, emitting less carbons into the air. A train stop in Fort Wayne would link many families and area cities and towns together, drawing more travelers from the Warsaw and Defiance, Ohio area to the Fort Wayne International Airport.

NIPRA believes there are many positive aspects associated with rail service that would create jobs, boost tourism, save energy, and provide a safe and inexpensive way to travel, particularly for trips from 100 to 300 miles in length. Together, we have come a long way in the past year to convince our state and national leaders that investing in passenger rail service is good for Indiana. Now is not the time to let up. The FRA will award the 8 billion in stimulus dollars within the next few months. It is vital that Fort Wayne, one of the largest cities in the United States without passenger rail service, be included in this funding.

To further this goal, NIPRA is sponsoring another Rally for Rail, Rolling Forward! at the Baker Street Station on Saturday January 16 at 2 PM. Representatives from INDOT and federal, state, and local leaders will be on hand to update the public on the progress made to date, and what they can do to influence the final decision by the FRA. We look forward to continuing the effort to restore this most important mode of transportation and to create jobs and improve the economy in Indiana.

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