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Plans for train connecting Columbus and Chicago chug forward

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More steps are being taken in plans to build a high-speed train connecting Columbus to Chicago.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is “ready for the next phase of due diligence to continue exploration,” of the proposed high speed train, according to a Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission press release.

The 300-mile railway would make stops at 9 cities along the route from Columbus to Chicago, the release said.

The train’s initial proposal was made in 2004, said Thea Walsh, director of transportation systems and funding at MORPC in an email.

The Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association led a feasibility and business plan to evaluate the case in 2013, the release said.

And since the completion of the study, the MORPC staff has taken the next step and worked with other metropolitan planning agencies to complete a rail service development plan, Walsh said.

The initial study by NIPRA estimated the total cost of the railway line to be $1.29 billion, or about $4 million per mile, she said. However, the estimated return on the project is slated to be $6.24 billion.

So far, the feedback for the proposed plan has been positive, Walsh said.

“(The feedback) comes from local stakeholder groups and communities interested in hearing more about how it could benefit their community,” she said.

According to an NIPRA release, the Columbus metropolitan area population is the largest in the U.S. that does not have any type of passenger railway.

The initial study also projected significant regional economic benefits, Walsh said. Those benefits include 26,800 full-time jobs for 30 years, an estimated 12,000 construction jobs generated while the passenger rail is being built, and $2.6 billion in increased joint economic development opportunities for communities along the corridor, she said.

According to a 2012 study by the Environmental Law and Policy Center, there are more than 460 companies in the Midwest high-speed rail supply chain, including 122 in Ohio.

Some Ohio State students from Chicago are excited about the prospect of a train connecting the two cities.

Ellen Finneran, a fourth-year in accounting, said she goes home once per semester, but if a railway was built she would go home more frequently.

“I think it’s a really good idea because a lot of people in Ohio, especially Columbus, are from Chicago. Right now the only option (for public transport) is the Megabus, but that’s limited with the times it’s available, so that’s pretty annoying,” Finneran said. Megabus is a bus service that operating in the U.S. and Canada.

The high-speed train would make the Chicago-to-Columbus travel time three hours and 45 minutes, compared to an almost six-hour drive.

“It’s really long to drive by yourself, and as a student with work, it would be good to have public transport to get school work done on my travel,” Finneran said.

Even students who have never been to Chicago said they would use the railway.

“I think it’d be fun to take a weekend trip there,” said Haley Waldo, a first-year in exploration from Ohio. “Although it would depend on the ticket prices.”

The proposed plan has received support from Transit Columbus, which has a signatures on petition website for the train.

According to its website, Transit Columbus is a nonprofit organization that’s mission is to have “an integrated public transportation system for the people of Central Ohio.”

The petition had more than 5,900 supporters as of Monday evening.

MORPC staff have also been working with OSU students by getting them involved in the planning.

“Staff is working with a studio class at the Knowlton School of Architecture to facilitate local project ideas that could be considered for this rail line,” said Laura Koprowski, director of public and government affairs at MORPC.

The cities along the proposed route include Columbus, Marysville, Kenton and Lima in Ohio, and Fort Wayne, South Bend,  and Gary in Indiana, and Chicago, Walsh said. However, the release said other cities along the route are set to include Warsaw, Plymouth, Valparaiso and Gary in Indiana.

As of now, there is no projected start date.

Correction: Oct. 15, 2014

An earlier version of the graphic in this story incorrectly spelled the names of the cites Plymouth and Valparaiso. 


  1. We need a train from Columbus to NY/NJ.

    • The Amtrak Pennsylvanian goes from New York to Pittsburgh(Via Philadelphia,Harrisburg) needs to be extended west of Pittsburgh to Columbus,Dayton and Cincinnati.

  2. Would existing rail lines be used for any of the route? After all, there are already tracks connecting Fort Wayne and Warsaw, and I imagine the same is true for a lot of the proposed route.

  3. Back when US 30 had flashing yellows, if you left at night, that route is doable in 3h 30 mins with the car going 85-90 mph. Now, the lights are on all night so you can’t do that anymore but it’s the same route US 33 then US 30 so how come this “high speed train” is doing the same route in less time???

  4. correction, more time! the article states it would take 3h 45 mins compared to the 3h 30 mins it used to take me. Nowadays, faster way is 6h with the freeway so it does cut out time. But a high speed train should be going faster IMO

  5. @alex…… 3hr45m perhaps includes the 9 stops ?

  6. Is there a link to the petition for us to sign? So into this.

  7. @Alex I used to drive that route all the time, and there was never any way on earth to drive it in 3:30, even going 85-90 with flashing yellows. There aren’t many lights now anyway assuming you (1) take the interstate around Ft Wayne on the north, and (2) go north on 49 to I-80 just before you come to Valparaiso. Besides, taking 70 and 65 is faster anyway, even though it’s a little longer that way.

    Regardless, there’s no way on earth this will get funded if a Cincy-Columbus-cleveland high-speed train idea was killed. (Ted Strickland wanted it, but Kasich nixed and and even said he would do so when campaigning in 2010.)

  8. You spelled Plymouth and Valparaiso wrong on your map.

  9. There is no direct line from Kenton to Lima. They would either have to rebuild the old Erie from Kenton to Lima or put in a transfer from CSX to CFER at Dunkirk.

    I also find it humorous that they think it will be profitable. Passenger rail is never profitable. Costs are just too high. That’s why all the major railroads stopped passenger service decades ago. Without heavy government subsidy, this would fail miserably. Government money is why the system in Europe works so well.

    Ideally, this would be great, but it will fail. It just isn’t practical.

  10. That would be awesome to catch a train from Columbus to Chicago I would be able to go to more Cubs without hardly spending any gas money I would be all for it.

  11. There is no way this train will make these times. Amtrak can’t get to Chicago from Indianapolis in 4 hours, much less from Columbus. I know, having taken the Hoosier State and Cardinal several times, and it is regularly late. The hold up is the area immediately adjacent to Chicago- a snarl of tracks, none of which are owned by the passenger agency. No word on what will be different for this line than today’s situation.

    Amtrak’s on-time numbers are posted on its’ website. It improved in September to about 2/3 on-time. In August it was 1/3. If your time matters to you, you go another way.

  12. No way this makes any sense unless it’s HIGH SPEED RAIL. If people can’t get to Chicago from Columbus on a bullet train going 200mph and get there in 2 hrs, they’d rather drive. I’m not paying for the privilege of sitting on a train and waiting 4-5 hrs when I can pay for the gas and drive myself on my own time, my own schedule, in my own “private” space where I can blare whatever crappy music and fart as much as I want without bothering other passengers and I won’t have to worry about them bothering me by doing the same.

    In other words: this is a bad idea

  13. We have been pushing for this in Fort Wayne for years. I personally have taken the Amtrak from Waterloo Indiana to Chicago and really didn’t find the service to be great or worth the expense. As mentioned, the delays and speed where a factor. I feel it would be great for my city and would drastically help our local economy. The ability to travel from Fort Wayne to Chicago in 1.5hrs will be very appealing to many as will traveling to Columbus as we have a large Ohio State fan base in the area.

  14. Increased travel choices are good for regional development.
    The demands of the Millennial cohort, Baby Boomers as well as demographic
    realities point directly to more and better public transportation.
    Utilizing existing infrastructure, right of ways and public private partnerships
    will lead the way to productive, efficient and needed options.

  15. I think this would be great for those wanting to travel anywhere on this line. Not to mention the economical gains many of the connecting city’s will see would be great. Hopefully we can make
    It happen.

  16. I live in Valparaiso and most of my family lives in Lima, so this would be awesome. It’d also be great to be able to go to more Blue Jackets games in Columbus.

  17. @ Aaron: Even if it takes the same amount of time as driving, I would choose the train. I can read, sleep,or whatever other activities that are impossible while driving. If I want to listen to my own crappy music, I have headphones. Not to mention, rail is much, much safer than driving.

  18. Would have been extra nice to do a bit of proofreading on the map: please spell Valparaiso and Plymouth correctly.

    Hope this rail system actually comes to fruition. Even if the times are “ambitious” – that 6+ hour drive would be far better spent surfing the internet/napping/reading in a semi-comfortable chair.

  19. There is already bus service between Columbus and Chicago offered by 4 different companies. Greyhound, Miller, Barons Bus and Megabus.

  20. If you buy far enough in advance, even flying from Columbus to Midway can cost as little as $98 roundtrip. More than Megabus and not as green, but cheap by 2014 airline standards.

  21. Confusion raineth regarding the term “high speed rail”. The generally accepted standard around the world is above 125 miles per hour. Typical European HSR speeds exceed 150 mph; a few exceed 200 mph. Japanese HSR started at 125 mph in the 1960s; now at least 180 mph. Chinese HSR operates at up to 220 mph.

    As I understand it, the proposed Columbus – Chicago rail passenger service would operate at a maximum speed of 110 mph, and thus is not truly high speed. Regular Amtrak intercity trains across Ohio and much of the nation operate at a top speed of 79 mph, but rarely average more than 50 mph when station-stop delays are included. Amtrak’s fastest trains operate at speeds up to 150 mph between Boston MA and Washington DC.

  22. Contemporary passenger train locomotives do not “chug”. Please avoid such out-of-date cliches.

  23. Lets see, Back in the 70’s 80’s 90’s & 00’s, the Ohio Rail Commision wasted our taxpayers dollars by feasability study after feasabilty study to link Ohio’s 3 C cities by high speed rail. What a waist of tax money spent on something that never came thru!

  24. If this seems like overposting, I generally publish when I’ve been assaulted, or when my privacy is ignored, or when my cats cry out in pain by some assault of government. if you see three postings in a row, as sometimes happens, it just means i’ve been assaulted, or my cats assaulted, or my privacy invaded, three times lately. the other day it was a flash energy assault aimed at my temple/top of my head. literally thousands of such assaults over the past decade, I’m sure that estimate is accurate….the other day one of my cats was bleeding, hair missing from its back, and two of them actually had scabs and radiation bumps on their back as a result of being shot with energy weaponry. A cat that was hospitalized by energy attacks and food tampering less than a year ago was groaning in pain from energy attacks , and they’re induced to vomit constantly . for many years my cats were crying out in pain from energy attacks –several times a day over many years. they’re still being attacked, and are crawling with fleas despite the application of frontline or advantage products every few weeks–the community is actually putting bogus or weak products on the market in retaliation. they knocked one of my cats off a ledge the other day, 15 foot drop, and have induced another of my cats to run off twice, a cat that is very docile and usually doesn’t even want to go outside/agitated by being shot with energy weaponry. i contacted the aspca in 2007, and after that could only find work fundraising for abused animals, the community’s own form of symbolic punishment. not a bad job, though the idea that they manipulated my circumstance to this extent is ridiculous. My entire apt. is being heated by radiation, more than 10x the norm, causing my cats to noticeably sweat–you could probably measure it from space.
    The federal government of course has all the power in the world to stop it. My tooth was knocked out in increments, over a 2 year span by energy weaponry assaults, for stating and proving the crimes committed by the federal government, absolute torture, like having a tooth drilled without novocaine for several hours. in 1997 i was made homeless by community manipulation; in an 8 or 9 month span i had a gun to my head, was knocked out, and was intentionally run down by a car and taken by ambulance to a hospital, believe it or not, to the laughter of the community.
    the federal government has admitting to torturing, and of course that’s a per se violation of the 8th amendment, though it should also be regarded as criminal.
    If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, right? The Democrats’ great accomplishment is producing the political equivalent of a Rodney King video, clearly demonstrating the lies of the right, the right Hilary Clinton correctly identified as a vast conspiracy. Confirm by examining Central District of California Cases, 01-4340, 03-9097, 08-5515, 10-5193, US Tax Court 12000-07L –though I think you want to view my US Tax Court Appeal to the 9th Circuit for a good account of their day to day assaults, a few month time slice indicative of a decade of assault, and more recently 9th Circuit case 11-56043.

  25. Who, other than drunk OSU students going to OSU away games, is going to use this train?

  26. I believe that if we would put money into developing rail transportation, it would save a lot of fuel consumption compared to flying. As a real estate agent, I find that it would be great to take high speed rail to larger airports, so I can fly different Realtor Conferences.

  27. Zachery D Durnell

    The rail line should have dedicated tracks that are not used by freight trains. A couple of reasons. 1) Build better tracks to allow for higher speeds. 2) AMTRAK schedules are FUBAR because they are beholden to the freight companies. The freight companies own the tracks and side track AMTRAK trains whenever freight wants to roll through.

    To be considered high speed: We need to look at EuroStar, TGV, and The Bullet Train in Japan. Dedicated tracks, straight lines, high quality trains.



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