LIMA — An economic feasibility study to gauge the possible financial benefits of high-speed rail between Columbus and Chicago indicates it could translate to billions of dollars, and tens of thousands of jobs, according to a report released Friday.
“What the study demonstrates, with the end points in Chicago and Columbus, it does in fact make financial sense,” Lima Mayor David Berger said. “Since we’re along the route, we get the benefit of that as well.”
High-speed rail is not a done deal but this is one of the hurdles to clear along the way if it’s going to have a chance, Berger said.
“It’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “We need to recognize it as a long-term task and continue to execute items that need to be done.”
Indiana’s governor is very supportive of the idea and pushed the study to get a look at the financial aspect of it, which benefits Ohio, Berger said.
Berger is a big supporter of high-speed rail for various reasons. A trip to Columbus, for example, would take half the time. And if it's easier to reach the airport and cheaper because you don't have to pay for parking, more would travel by air. Conversely, fewer would use short flights — they would go by rail. That would save gasoline, also.
“None of those two circumstances are going to change. We’re not going to see airport congestion go down, and we’re not going to see the price of fuel for our cars go down,” he said.
Berger also envisions great potential for business opportunities in the area around the rail hub, should it become reality in Lima. The proposed location would be near the site of the old train depot which is Lima’s utility customer service office in the downtown area.
A recent plan includes an 11-city regional passenger rail corridor between Columbus and Chicago that includes stops in Lima and Fort Wayne, Ind., as well as others along the way. There’s also a proposal for express schedules which cut out some stops for a faster ride between the two major cities.
The study said the benefit over 30 years would be $6 billion and include the creation of 26,800 jobs. Estimates are more than 2 million people would ride high-speed rail between Columbus and Chicago.
The rail plan includes using existing freight rail lines with some upgrades, including to safety devices, since high-speed rail travels a lot faster than passenger rail.