Passenger rail service could be coming to Warsaw as soon as 2018. That is according to Warsaw/Kosciusko County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mark Dobson.
Dobson was asked by Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer to give the Warsaw Common Council an update Monday night on a conference Dobson attended. The workshop was hosted by Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association.
In 2009, a collaboration of Indiana mayors and Gov. Mitch Daniels prompted the Indiana Department of Transportation to seek federal stimulus funding for a Midwest Regional Rail System.
In September of this year, the Warsaw Common Council agreed to donate $5,000 toward a study to bring passenger rail service to northern Indiana. Dobson recently attended the conference and reported that the result is that NIPRA will begin to develop a business model for passenger rail service to come through Warsaw.
“Because they are finding they will be able to operate the line profitably, they’re moving forward under what they call the Build, Own, Operate, Transfer program,” said Dobson. “Realistically, if they find that the numbers look as good as what they are projecting, passenger rail service will be restored in as little as 6 years.”
A summit is being planned to gather representatives of cities and towns from Columbus, Ohio, to Chicago, Ill., to learn more about passenger rail service and what it means for Indiana and other areas that will benefit. “We are asking for the summit to be held in Warsaw,” Dobson told the council.
While the plan is still too new and still in development stages, Dobson said the responsibility to maintain a passenger rail line in each community is not yet known.
Currently, a $10 million environmental study is being done on the area that is proposed to house the line from Columbus, Ohio, to Chicago.
It is not known if Warsaw would include a stop on the passenger rail line, but Dobson said a study by OrthoWorx and a recommendation by Indiana Department of Transportation definitely puts Warsaw on the radar.
“The only thing guaranteed is that there will be a stop in the region and another in Fort Wayne,” he explained. “There will only be four stops in Indiana and Warsaw would most likely be one due to the orthopedic industry … but everything is dynamic and fluid.”
One thing that could hamper Warsaw being a potential stop is the rail crossings. The passenger rail line being considered is a 110 mph service. Dobson said, “Our crossings don’t meet high speed rail standards. One of the reasons we want to hold a summit here is to find out whose responsibility it is to upgrade the crossings, which would be required.”
The passenger rail service would largely utilize existing east-west rails, which would also require upgrades and, in some locations, the laying of additional rail.