Columbus, OH to Chicago rail corridor proposed

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CHamilton

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Columbus, Ohio, Wants In on the Midwest Rail Renaissance

Columbus, Ohio, population 800,000, is among the biggest U.S. cities without passenger rail. But its time may have finally come.

A new plan for passenger rail would link Columbus to Chicago. Image: All Aboard Ohio
A college town and state capital, Columbus has bucked the trend of urban decline in Ohio and built a strong economy on insurance and retail. The culture here has been famously resistant to rail plans, but it’s a young city that’s becoming more and more progressive. Columbus has seen major growth in its core urban neighborhoods in recent years.

Now city leaders are throwing their support behind a new plan to create a rail link from Columbus to Chicago via Fort Wayne, Indiana. A study by the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association [PDF] makes it seem like a pretty sweet deal. The group estimates that the cost of linking the three cities on existing freight rail lines would be about $1.3 billion — about one-tenth the price of connecting the two cities by highway. The group estimates the trains could travel between 110 and 130 miles per hour, completing the 355 mile trip in under four hours, making it competitive with flying and driving. The project, they estimate, would generate $1.70 for every $1 invested and would create up to 26,800 permanent jobs.

As for where the money would come from, that’s an open question. But some rail advocates are optimistic that the proposal has strong enough market potential that at least part of it could be privately funded. NIPRA estimates the system could draw $116 million in fares in the year 2020. And if population growth continues as projected, annual fare revenue could rise to $190 million by 2040.

Vince Papsidero, Columbus’s planning administrator, told the Columbus Dispatch: “This actually could be profitable.”

That said, this is still a far-away dream. The city of Columbus backed the initial study with $20,000. Proponents are trying to raise $2 million for an engineering study. After that, they’d need $10 million from the feds for an environmental impact study.

Plus, the state of Ohio is broke, and the governor hates trains.
 

MrFSS

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I lived in the Columbus area and worked downtown there for many years before I retired. There was talk of rail project all the time over the years (especially 3-C). Passenger rail in Columbus to anywhere will never happen for many, many years, if at all. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it!
 

George Harris

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If ONE PERCENT of the passenger rail studies made over the last 40 years were to have turned into reality we could be riding trains everywhere in this country. I don't even read them any more. The 3-C program made quite a bit of sense. It went no where.

It appears that this scheme is crossing Indiana on the old Pennsy main. Is that track even still there? Somebbody that has more time and curiosity about tis scheme than I do read it and decide whether it has any acquaintence with reality or is a complete work of fiction.
 

MikefromCrete

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If ONE PERCENT of the passenger rail studies made over the last 40 years were to have turned into reality we could be riding trains everywhere in this country. I don't even read them any more. The 3-C program made quite a bit of sense. It went no where.
It appears that this scheme is crossing Indiana on the old Pennsy main. Is that track even still there? Somebbody that has more time and curiosity about tis scheme than I do read it and decide whether it has any acquaintence with reality or is a complete work of fiction.
The 3-C project was about to get off the ground when the good people of Ohio elected Kaisch as governor. Years of non-partisan planning and work went down the drain when he decided to make the project one of his main campaign points.

The map with the article says the route would use CSX, but CSX doesn't go through Fort Wayne. It would appear to be the former PRR, which is now a slow speed short line and would require millions in investment to bring it up to snuff.
 

Anderson

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If ONE PERCENT of the passenger rail studies made over the last 40 years were to have turned into reality we could be riding trains everywhere in this country. I don't even read them any more. The 3-C program made quite a bit of sense. It went no where.
It appears that this scheme is crossing Indiana on the old Pennsy main. Is that track even still there? Somebbody that has more time and curiosity about tis scheme than I do read it and decide whether it has any acquaintence with reality or is a complete work of fiction.
The 3-C project was about to get off the ground when the good people of Ohio elected Kaisch as governor. Years of non-partisan planning and work went down the drain when he decided to make the project one of his main campaign points.

The map with the article says the route would use CSX, but CSX doesn't go through Fort Wayne. It would appear to be the former PRR, which is now a slow speed short line and would require millions in investment to bring it up to snuff.
True, but the cost does seem to take this into account. This is one of the more expensive non-HSR plans I've seen; it's on par with the Miami-Orlando project (which is cheaper than usual because of using existing ROW and tracks) or with what I've seen for major segments of SEHSR.
 

D.P. Roberts

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If ONE PERCENT of the passenger rail studies made over the last 40 years were to have turned into reality we could be riding trains everywhere in this country. I don't even read them any more. The 3-C program made quite a bit of sense. It went no where.
It appears that this scheme is crossing Indiana on the old Pennsy main. Is that track even still there? Somebbody that has more time and curiosity about tis scheme than I do read it and decide whether it has any acquaintence with reality or is a complete work of fiction.
The 3-C project was about to get off the ground when the good people of Ohio elected Kaisch as governor. Years of non-partisan planning and work went down the drain when he decided to make the project one of his main campaign points.

The map with the article says the route would use CSX, but CSX doesn't go through Fort Wayne. It would appear to be the former PRR, which is now a slow speed short line and would require millions in investment to bring it up to snuff.
I live near Marysville, and have driven the long drive to Fort Wayne (Waterloo) in the wee hours of the night several times to catch trains to Chicago. If I could implement any rail plan anywhere, it would be this one. However, with Kasich as governor, there's as much chance of this happening as if I decided to build it myself.

That's one flaw in the plan - why bother having two different routes from the Fort Wayne area to Chicago? I don't see Indiana being all that interested in their portion of the route.
 

railiner

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I agree that this coming to fruition has a snowball's chance in you-know-where.....

The 3-C corridor seems like a more likely scenario, if anything ever does come from these studies.....
 

afigg

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Obviously this proposal is not going to get very far so long Kasich is Governor of Ohio. Kasich comes across to me as the most anti-transit and passenger rail of all the Governors elected in 2010.

But Kasich won't be Governor forever. This is a project that will have to wait for: 1) return of a substantial federal funding program for intercity passenger rail, 2) new political leadership and a more balanced legislature in Ohio and less resistance in Indiana, and 3) the Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Detroit corridor projects to show success in ridership growth and economic growth from companies locating offices or plants near a corridor station because of the train service to Chicago.

This is a long term play. Wait for the turning of the wheel.
 

Anderson

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Well, even though construction, etc. will have to wait for 2014/18, it seems likely that they could do the "pipe-laying" work through, for example, TIGER grants (since I think some things like that can get money from the Feds on a local application). There's no reason that everything has to wait until he leaves office...just the "heavy work" that would take 3-5 years to get to anyway.
 

CHamilton

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Sunday Train: The Proposed Chicago - Fort Wayne - Columbus Rapid Rail Service

The Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association, on 28 June 2013, announced the results of their study of a Northern Indiana / Ohio rail corridor to Chicago:
The proposed system would operate twelve trains each way per day, including at least six express schedules. With modern diesel equipment running at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour to start, the three-hundred mile trip between downtown Chicago and downtown Columbus would normally require only three hours, forty-five minutes (express service), or four hours (local service). Track and safety improvements in a potential future phase would support speeds up to 130 mph and a downtown Chicago to downtown Columbus express time of three hours, twenty minutes.
Longer time readers of the Sunday Train may recognize this as a piece of the Ohio Hub project, first developed in the 1990's. At the time that the Ohio Hub was originally developed, the Fort Wayne to Chicago link was slated to be the second connection from Ohio to Chicago, with the envisioned phasing being:

  • Phase 1: Chicago to Detroit; and Cincinnati - Columbus - Cleveland ~ the Triple C backbone of the Ohio Hub
  • Phase 2: Cleveland to Toledo, Toledo to Detroit, completing Cleveland to Chicago via Michigan
  • Phase 3: Fort Wayne to Chicago; Toledo to Fort Wayne; Columbus to Fort Wayne; Cincinnati - Indianapolis - Gary - Chicago, completing Dayton/Cincinnati to Chicago via Indianapolis and Columbus/Cleveland to Chicago via Fort Wayne
  • Phase 4: Cleveland to Pittsburgh via Youngstown, connecting with services to Philadelphia / New York on the Keystone Corridor
  • Phase 5: Columbus to Pittsburgh, connecting with services to Philadelphia / New York on the Keystone Corridor
  • Phase 6: Cleveland to Toronto via Buffalo and Niagara Falls, connecting with services to New York and Boston on the Empire Corridor
So what the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association is doing is pulling out a section of the Phase Three of the Ohio Hub and proposing it as a free-standing project. This free-standing project would bring intercity rail service back to Columbus, the largest or second largest urban area lacking rail service (depending on how you count Phoenix), and to Fort Wayne, the largest urban area in Indiana without intercity passenger rail service.
 

Anderson

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Sunday Train: The Proposed Chicago - Fort Wayne - Columbus Rapid Rail Service

The Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association, on 28 June 2013, announced the results of their study of a Northern Indiana / Ohio rail corridor to Chicago:

The proposed system would operate twelve trains each way per day, including at least six express schedules. With modern diesel equipment running at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour to start, the three-hundred mile trip between downtown Chicago and downtown Columbus would normally require only three hours, forty-five minutes (express service), or four hours (local service). Track and safety improvements in a potential future phase would support speeds up to 130 mph and a downtown Chicago to downtown Columbus express time of three hours, twenty minutes.

Longer time readers of the Sunday Train may recognize this as a piece of the Ohio Hub project, first developed in the 1990's. At the time that the Ohio Hub was originally developed, the Fort Wayne to Chicago link was slated to be the second connection from Ohio to Chicago, with the envisioned phasing being:

  • Phase 1: Chicago to Detroit; and Cincinnati - Columbus - Cleveland ~ the Triple C backbone of the Ohio Hub
  • Phase 2: Cleveland to Toledo, Toledo to Detroit, completing Cleveland to Chicago via Michigan
  • Phase 3: Fort Wayne to Chicago; Toledo to Fort Wayne; Columbus to Fort Wayne; Cincinnati - Indianapolis - Gary - Chicago, completing Dayton/Cincinnati to Chicago via Indianapolis and Columbus/Cleveland to Chicago via Fort Wayne
  • Phase 4: Cleveland to Pittsburgh via Youngstown, connecting with services to Philadelphia / New York on the Keystone Corridor
  • Phase 5: Columbus to Pittsburgh, connecting with services to Philadelphia / New York on the Keystone Corridor
  • Phase 6: Cleveland to Toronto via Buffalo and Niagara Falls, connecting with services to New York and Boston on the Empire Corridor
So what the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association is doing is pulling out a section of the Phase Three of the Ohio Hub and proposing it as a free-standing project. This free-standing project would bring intercity rail service back to Columbus, the largest or second largest urban area lacking rail service (depending on how you count Phoenix), and to Fort Wayne, the largest urban area in Indiana without intercity passenger rail service.
Phase 2 and phase 4 go together, and this part of phase 3 and phase 5 go together as well. Both more or less present through CHI-NYP runs (PGH-CLE-CHI is basically a NYC-routed Broadway or...wait for it...the Cap-Penny through cars; the routing by Columbus does much the same. I've got a lot of other commentary about some of those phases being oddly ordered.
 

CHamilton

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Passenger rail service making real progress for return to Fort Wayne




By Geoff Paddock for The News-Sentinel

Friday, February 28, 2014 - 12:01 am
A broad coalition of support is building in Indiana and Ohio to bring passenger rail service back to the region — linking Fort Wayne with Chicago and Columbus, Ohio — at speeds up to 110 mph.

A feasibility study and business plan, released by the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association, propose a new model of rail service that is both efficient and affordable. If we make an initial investment in infrastructure improvements, we could see a rail system that would serve more than 2 million passengers a year and achieve operational revenue exceeding costs.

The business plan, prepared by Transportation and Environmental Management Systems, recommends 10 trains running daily between Chicago and Columbus with stops in several cities along the route, including Warsaw and Fort Wayne. This designated route has the potential to achieve priority status among those regional corridor projects being considered for funding by the Federal Railroad Administration....

This cost is about $3.7 million per mile as compared with $15 million to $20 million per mile for interstate highway construction. New track, signals, overpasses and station work will allow for maximum speeds and safe integration with freight rail service.

The project would create employment opportunities equivalent to 26,000 full-time jobs over 30 years throughout the corridor. Trains would attract 2.7 million riders by 2030 and would add $700 million in annual household income and $2.7 billion in property values over that period....

Perhaps most significant to the success of this rail system is that it is expected to operate at a profit by the third full year of operation. By the 10th year, it would show a profit of $28 million, according to the business plan. Over the lifetime of the project, $1.25 billion in additional federal income taxes can be collected as well as $679 million in additional property taxes within the corridor.

This project, which is energy-efficient and can save fossil fuels, has strong bipartisan support. Mayor Tom Henry and County Commissioners Linda Bloom, Therese Brown and Nelson Peters have been working with me to secure support from Gov. Mike Pence and other state and federal officials to invest in such a passenger rail system. On Feb. 11, the City Council voted to appropriate $200,000 to help pay for the next step — a Tier I Environmental Impact Study — for the two-state project. The total cost for the Tier I is about $1 million for each state. All cities to be served along the route, as well as the Indiana and Ohio departments of transportation, will participate in the cost....

Geoff Paddock is the 5th District City Councilman for Fort Wayne and a founding member of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association.
 

Railroad Bill

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Considering Indiana Governor Pence was balking on supporting the Cardinal a few months ago, I would be very surprised he would get behind what he terms "a transportation boondoggle" by giving his blessing to another passenger rail line in Indiana. And Governor Kasich and he go to the same camp meetings ;) . I would be first in line to ride this train to Chicago and so would many other Ohioans. We shall see :huh:
 

me_little_me

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If it can make money then wouldn't the host RR be interested in running it? Or some third party?

I love rail. I think transit is legitimately subsidized by federal and state government. The common good. But when I hear how rail is going to make money, my first question is why wouldn't private industry jump all over it ala FEC in Florida?

It won't make money. That doesn't mean it isn't legitimate. And, if I am wrong, and it does, that money can be used to fund other rail projects if it is government run.
 

7deuceman

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I don't understand all of the details or the reasons why some people in Ohio are not pro-passenger train.

However, I rode the Broadway Limited from New York to Chicago in 1985 and was absolutely floored that they did not service Columbus along the route. Instead, we went further north crossing Ohio through some smaller cities. The speed limit between Ft Wayne and Chicago was 30 mph on some really old and bumpy track.

For what it is worth and if the numbers work:

IMO it is just good sense to run a Chicago - Columbus - Pittsburgh - New York as perhaps a "Broadway Limited - Pennsylvanian hybrid" service. That would give everyone along the route access to/from Columbus and other services at Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philly and NYC.

There would also be a plus if the Capitol Limited could connect at Pittsburgh with a train from NYC and PHL headed to Columbus (and then Chicago) as well as from Columbus to the Capital Limited at Pittsburgh eastbound. It's just an idea and someone has likely considered this already, because there are Columbus area passengers that need to go west, east and south to Florida.

Edit: After fully-reading this thread I reference the "Phase 5" in the report Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association, A very cool report presented by CHamilton - thank you for the info.
 
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D.P. Roberts

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Again, I'd love to see this happen. But at this point, I'd be happy with a new station at Fort Wayne / Waterloo. The last time I read about it, the new station was supposed to be built in 2013, but as far as I know a shovel hasn't even turned yet.
 

iggy

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Video discussing the vision for Ohio and other States in regards to passenger rail. Best viewed in Firefox or Chrome - updated IE should play content without a plugin - no promises. Starting at the 6:30 mark.

NARP ( National Association of Railroad Passengers ) Board Chairman Robert Stewart’s presentation

Midwest High Speed Rail Association 2013 Fall Meeting part 4
 

Anderson

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(1) CSX, which owns almost all the track, is unlikely to want to get involved in this sort of thing ever. They'll put up with hosting if the money is right, but remember...they just fought to get out of running MARC trains last year. I doubt CSX would want to run such a train even if they were guaranteed a subsidy to cover any losses and handed new equipment for it.

(2) It is possible you could get Iowa Pacific (or someone like that) to run the operation, assuming you funded an equipment buy. Getting them to fund the plan, however, is highly unlikely absent an RRIF loan...

(3) ...and if a more detailed study did back up the figures, give or take a bit, it's possible (presuming CSX was cooperative) you could get a group to invest in something that would carry an RRIF loan. Absent that, $28m/yr is a lousy return on over $1 billion in investment. Heck, $30m/yr wouldn't even cover loan interest on a mortgage of that size.
 
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andersone

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If wishes were horses then beggars would ride,,, having many dealing with the honorable Mr. Kasich in the past, unfortunately he is never FOR anything except less. It would gladly trade the drive the 90 miles to get to Columbus and get to Chi in 4 hours as apposed the forty minutes to SPM at ten at night and get to CHI at ten in the morning,,, and you wonder why i drive to GSB to catch the CZ?
 

Karl1459

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Key points which might just make this doable.

1. The three major urban areas are within the 100-500 mile "sweet spot" for rail travel. ~325 miles CHI-Columbus ~160 CHI-FtWayne, 160 FtWayne-Columbus.

.

2. The city pairs are not optimally served by the interstate highway system.

3. The (estamated) costs of construction of a state of the art highway exceeds the costs of establishing rail service.

4. Reasonable rail service will be time competitive with existing highway.

Getting a rail service up and running to Columbus that has a clear advantage to road/air will be a right step in changing existing travel habits to favor rail, far better than a "Triple C" service which would have to compete against a better infrastructure.
 

NorthShore

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Twelve trains a day (six each way)???????

Does anyone really want to go to Columbus (or anywhere in between) THAT much (or in such significant numbers?) Perhaps they all want terribly to get out of those places on a daily basis?
 

neroden

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Most of this route, ex-Pennsylvania Railroad (Gary - Lima via Ft Wayne) is shortline track (Chicago Fort Wayne & Eastern) at the moment. (Much of it leased from CSX.) The remainder (Lima to Columbus) is CSX but it's a secondary CSX route, not their mainline. Because of this, CSX will not be a significant problem.

If funding can be found to rebuild the track as state-owned passenger track, well, basically, that's it, you're done, you have a fast passenger train. That's the hurdle.

Please note that the route from Chicago to Ft. Wayne is same as the proposed route for HSR from Chicago to Toledo (and Columbus and beyond).
 
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Eric S

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6 R/Ts (12 trains) a day Chicago-Columbus seems reasonable. It's right in line with what had been proposed and studied in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative for other routes.
 
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