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County helps fund Fort Wayne-Chicago train study

FORT WAYNE -- The Allen County commissioners agreed unanimously Friday to contribute money to study the viability and economic benefits of passenger train service from Fort Wayne to northern Indiana and Chicago.

Rich Davis, director of the Downtown Improvement District, said the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association is close to having the $80,000 needed to proceed with the first of several studies involving rail service from Fort Wayne to Chicago. Davis is also a member of the rail association.

Currently, people wishing to travel to Chicago by train must board in Waterloo, about 30 miles north of Fort Wayne. The proposed Fort Wayne service to be studied would be in addition to the service that currently connects through Waterloo, Elkhart and South Bend.

Nicole Jaubert-Lebanoff of Fort Wayne told commissioners it was difficult to visit relatives in Chicago using public transportation.

“To take the train we must drive to Waterloo at an ungodly hour of the morning, and then we don’t get back in to Waterloo until sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.,” she said.

In addition to the county’s $20,000 pledge, the group has received $10,000 from the Community Foundation of Fort Wayne and $20,000 from the city of Fort Wayne, along with several other contributions pending, Davis said.

The rail group plans to raise more than $120,000 for the rail corridor studies – $80,000 for the Fort Wayne-to-Chicago service and $20,000 each for projects to link Fort Wayne to Columbus and Toledo.

Once the business study is completed, it will be presented to the state and to Amtrak, Davis said.

“We must prove the economic viability of the proposed project,” Davis said.

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