10 min read

The Deeper Dive: How likely is passenger rail service in Fort Wayne?

"This is the best position Fort Wayne has been in to restore passenger rail service since 1990, when the Baker Street train station closed."
The Deeper Dive: How likely is passenger rail service in Fort Wayne?
From 1914-1990, Amtrak operated out of Baker Street Station in Downtown Fort Wayne. Could it happen again?

You’ve heard...

Passenger rail service might be coming back to Fort Wayne, thanks to a grant of up to $500,000 from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)’s Corridor ID Program, which has identified a route through the city as one worthy of further study.

For a little background...

  • Fort Wayne has not had passenger rail service since Amtrak vacated its Baker Street Station routes in 1990, “due to needed, but unfunded track improvements,” the City of Fort Wayne’s grant application to the FRA says. “Although the trains were full, the state departments of transportation were unable to fund the improvements due to competing priorities.”
  • For about 14 years now: the Northeast Indiana Public Rail Association (NIPRA) has coordinated with local and regional planning organizations to lay the groundwork for restoring passenger rail service to the city. In doing so, it has developed a five-state, 543-mile Midwest Connect Passenger Rail Corridor project, routing passenger rail service from Chicago to Pittsburgh, PA, through Fort Wayne and Columbus, OH.
  • President of NIPRA Fred Lanahan says: “Fort Wayne and Columbus are the two largest cities in the Midwest — and among the largest in the country — without any form of passenger rail, and they’re both on this line, so it’s long overdue in our opinion.”
  • Earlier this year: NIPRA worked with the City of Fort Wayne, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to apply for the Corridor ID Program grant to further study this connection. The Corridor ID Program is funded through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and administered by the FRA.
  • Last week: The FRA selected the Midwest Connect project as one of about 69 projects nationwide to receive a $500K stipend for further study. It is one of four passenger rail projects selected that route through the state of Indiana.
  • This means: Fort Wayne and its partner cities can now use the grant funds to prepare a Service Development Plan (SDP) for the Midwest Connect line, which studies the scope, schedule, and cost estimates for preliminarily engineering, environmental impact and construction.
  • A press release from the City of Fort Wayne says: “The Service Development Plan is a critical prerequisite to applying for (further) capital funding for passenger rail improvements; if awarded, the federal portion would cover between 80-90% of the costs of construction.”

So... How likely is it that passenger rail will return to Fort Wayne, and what might it look like if/when it happens?

We sat down with Lanahan and Paul Spoelhof, Deputy Director of Planning and Policy for the City of Fort Wayne, to find out. 

An early conceptual map of the Midwest Connect route from Chicago, IL, to Pittsburgh, PA, from the grant application.

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