LIMA — Another link has been added to the chain that may someday lead to a passenger rail service connecting Lima with Chicago.
While the final product won’t be available until 2026 at the earliest, HNTB Corporation, an infrastructure solutions firm, hosted a public meeting to present the findings of a study nailing down project basics — such as its cost, alternative routes, its necessity, type of service and statement of intent — or details needed before seeking federal grants.
The study found the most efficient service routes to be either two or four daily round trip schedules at 79 miles per hour, which would deliver passengers to Chicago in three hours and 27 minutes. An expansion to four daily round trips at 110 miles per hour was also found to be cost efficient, which would bring travel time down to two hours and 35 minutes.
The cost of a ticket, according Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association Board President Richard Juram, would still need to be decided upon.
The railroad line for the passenger rail service is already mostly constructed as it incorporates a track currently owned by CSX. As of today, freight trains still use the route, but development of passenger rail would require updates, such as the construction of parallel passing tracks in some locations. Upgrades to the line for high speed passenger rail services was estimated to cost between $900 million and $1.2 billion.
“It used to be a busy mainline railroad. Now it sees a couple of sleepy freight trains a day,” Juram said.
Caron Kloser, project manager on the study, said the railroad corridor is well-built for high speed rail development as the path is very straight.
The next step is to conduct further environmental studies, create a service development plan and develop preliminary engineering plans. Solidifying the design and actual construction would be the final steps.
As for Lima’s train station, the city has recommended renovations to the current station at East Wayne Street and Central Avenue.
Juram said NIPRA hosted the community meeting to allow the public to talk about the project with elected officials and to give official comment on the project, which may be used to update the study. Public interest is also often necessary to include in any grant applications to be able to pursue future development of the project.
The Lima-Chicago route is only one set of routes currently being considered that involves Lima’s rail lines. Another set of studies is looking at extending passenger rail service east from Lima to Columbus and onto Pittsburgh. A feasibility study is also being conducted to look at potential Hyperloop services that could complement a Midwestern train route.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.