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Passenger rail’s return pushed

Backers hope $80,000 study gives idea new traction in city

– Local supporters of bringing passenger rail back to the Summit City hope an $80,000 study – financed partly by local governments – will help persuade the federal government to invest millions in the area.

Geoff Paddock and Fred Lanahan, members of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association, announced Thursday they will pay Transportation Economics and Management Systems for the work.

The Frederick, Md., company has experience showing the benefits of passenger rail transportation, according to the local group.

Half the money for the study will come from income tax revenue from Fort Wayne and Allen County. The rest came from grants from community groups and Lima, Ohio.

The study will highlight jobs created from construction of new rail lines and investigate possible partnerships to operate successful passenger routes.

Indiana, Ohio and Illinois previously sought money for a $2.8 billion passenger rail line connecting Chicago with Cleveland, with one of two possible routes coming through Fort Wayne.

That proposal received no federal money.

For any rail line to get money in the future, Paddock said it must have business plans in place.

The hope is this study will lay the foundation for future federal money.

If passenger service were to be established, 80 percent of the project’s cost could be paid by federal transportation money.

It would likely take at least five years to make all of the infrastructure improvements necessary to start passenger rail service between Fort Wayne and Chicago, Columbus, Detroit and other cities, Paddock said.

The study could be finished as early as January to be presented to the new governor, Paddock said.

blanka@jg.net

Frank Gray of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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