Porter County mulls $20k request from high-speed rail group
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent April 15, 2014 8:26PM
Updated: May 17, 2014 6:22AM
VALPARAISO — High-speed rail may becoming through Valparaiso in five years, on a line connecting Chicago and Columbus, Ohio.
Members of the Porter County Board of Commissioners put off a request Tuesday from the Fort Wayne-based Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association to kick in $20,000, part of $70,000 in seed money from Valparaiso and the county to get the project going, but said they would consider it at their next meeting.
“This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky pipe dream,” said Fred Lanahan, president of the rail association, adding the public-private partnership project will spur both jobs and economic development.
The service, using existing CSX track for much of its 300-mile run, could start running by 2020 or even sooner, he said. The diesel trains would run at 110 mph, though with some tweaking of the tracks, that could go up to 130 mph.
Business class tickets from Valparaiso to Chicago would cost $19. In this area, the train would make stops in downtown Chicago, Gary/Chicago International Airport and Valparaiso before heading on to Plymouth.
“I’m intrigued, to say the least,” Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said. He expected the commissioners to make a decision about the funding at their next meeting.
The rail association is asking for funding for an environmental impact statement. The $2 million cost of the statement will be split about evenly with Ohio, Lanahan said, adding communities along the Indiana portion of the route are being asked to pitch in a total of $70,000 per county.
Valparaiso, along with private partners, is coming up with $50,000, Lanahan said, adding the Indiana Department of Transportation is willing to help fund the project once leaders have the rest of the necessary cash on the table.
Amtrak would most likely provide the rail service, said Richard Davis, a consultant for the rail association.
In other business, commissioners approved giving $200,000 over four years to Tech Foundry, a kick-off for new entrepreneurs being started by Elevate Ventures. The money will come from county economic development income tax funds.
Tech Foundry will be located in Valparaiso and could be up and running by the summer, an official with Elevate told commissioners earlier this month.
Other funding sources include the Regional Development Authority, and the Valparaiso Economic Development Commission.