The Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association is a new organization dedicated to bringing rejuvenated passenger rail service to Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana. The organization believes that our transportation system should include rail, highway, and air modalities. Benefits to the citizens of Northeast Indiana will include a stronger economy, enhanced security, and a cleaner environment.
The mission of NIPRA is to work with local, state, and federal elected and appointed officials, as well as business leaders in this region, to promote the return of passenger rail service to Fort Wayne. This service would be in addition to the train service that currently connects through Waterloo. NIPRA hopes to showcase the refurbished Baker Street Train Station and the growing citizen support that has been generated for passenger train service in and out of our city.
NIPRA continues to believe that Indiana should work with surrounding states to support the Midwest rail initiative. The goal of that initiative is to eventually link nine Midwestern states with a modern passenger rail network that will provide substantial economic benefits for Fort Wayne and Northeastern Indiana. It is estimated some 4,500 full time permanent jobs could be generated in Indiana with the completion of a high speed rail network.
NIPRA seeks to convince government and business leaders in the region that supporting the reinstitution of passenger rail service in Fort Wayne will benefit our city and state in many ways. We point to some obvious facts with our current transportation system.
Our highways are becoming gridlocked. Many of our nation’s airports are jammed with travelers and cannot adequately provide efficient air travel to many destinations. Passenger trains can provide efficient and timely travel, particularly with destinations from 100 to 300 miles in length.
While gasoline prices have lowered since last summer, prices could easily climb to the $4 per gallon mark again, and fossil fuels are the major cause of air pollution. Rail transportation uses approximately one tenth of the fuel per passenger mile, when comparing a train with 400 passengers with an automobile carrying one passenger.
Shifting to more passenger rail transport will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring us closer to the eventual goal of energy independence.
In the event airplanes are grounded by weather or a national emergency, train travel would provide an alternative means of moving stranded passengers throughout the country.
NIPRA believes there is strong support in Fort Wayne and Northeastern Indiana for the return of enhanced passenger rail service through the Baker Street Station. Recent data indicates that reviving a passenger rail line from Fort Wayne to Chicago and Cleveland or Columbus, Ohio would generate enough passengers to make it financially feasible. Building an enhanced passenger rail system would create thousands of permanent jobs in Indiana. Steel needed to produce or replace rail lines could be manufactured at SDI (Steel Dynamics Inc.), creating additional economic activity in Fort Wayne and Northeastern Indiana.
The economic recovery legislation signed by President Barack Obama on February 17 appropriates $9.3 billion to further this cause.
Eight billion dollars has been appropriated for capital assistance for high speed rail corridors and intercity passenger rail service. This means there are now dollars available for states to advance the goal of new intercity rail systems across the country. Governor Mitch Daniels and state legislators must work to see Indiana is included in this system. It is imperative the state develop a rail plan to designate where funds are to be spent to improve and add Amtrak service, and Fort Wayne must be included in this plan.
The Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association hopes to involve the public to convince our elected officials, and particularly our state and national legislators, to support investment to restore passenger rail service to our region. To that end, we are sponsoring a public rally, and we have invited national leaders in passenger and rail development. City and State leaders are also invited. This rally is scheduled for Friday April 3, 2009 at 4:30 pm at the Baker Street Train Station, 221 West Baker Street. We look forward to working together to restore this most important mode of transportation and to create jobs and improve our local economy.
Tom Hayhurst is a public health physician and former Fort Wayne City Councilman.
Geoff Paddock (260/432-5700-H or 260/425-5745-W) is the director of the Headwaters Park Flood Control Project in Fort Wayne; both are co- founders of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association.