A high-speed passenger rail could be in the works to connect Columbus and Chicago. The train would link 100 cities and create an estimated 26,800 full-time jobs, according to a Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association press release.
NIPRA is proposing the idea because Columbus is the largest populated metropolitan area in the United States that does not have a passenger rail, according to the release. The proposed line would transport more than two million passengers a year.
The passenger rail would make stops in 10 cities including Ohio cities such as Marysville, Kenton and Lima, Indiana cities such as Fort Wayne, Warsaw, Plymouth, Valparaiso and Gary before reaching Chicago.
The high-speed train could travel up to 130 mph, making the trip from Columbus to Chicago in less than four hours, according to All Aboard Ohio. Some students who live in the Chicago area were excited by the conveniences that would accompany a high-speed rail.
“When I heard (about the rail) I was very interested and hope it would happen,” said Jacob Marzalik, a fourth-year in psychology from Western Springs, Ill. “I haven’t gone home a whole lot. I don’t have a car and (if my) parents pick me up, it’s 12 hours of driving for them. A train would save money and time.”
The estimated cost for the project is $1.29 billion, with 80 percent designed to be eligible for federal funding and the remaining $257 million to be shared between Ohio and Indiana, according to the release.
The drive to Chicago, which is about five and a half hours long without heavy traffic, keeps some students from visiting home regularly.
“I think if there was a train, I would use it,” said Colleen Webster, a second-year in finance from Naperville, Ill. “We do drive sometimes, but six hours is a lot. (A train) would allow more friends to visit.”
Other students from the Chicago area have to worry about plane fares and gas prices when returning home, and the rail could be a less expensive option for traveling.
“(I spend) $700 to $800 on plane tickets a year,” said Camille Connor, a fourth-year in education from Wilmette, Ill. “Each ticket is $200 or less. I just got a car this year so I can drive, but that would be six hours.”
Marzalik said he is only able to travel home about three times a year.
“I’ve gotten used to it,” Marzalik said. “I’ve made (OSU) my second home.”
Ticket prices, though, could be a factor on whether college students would use a rail as their primary means of transportation home, something not laid out in the release.
“In Europe I used the trains to get to London to Paris, Paris to Kent and back,” Marzalik said. “They can get pricey. If they stick to prices around $65 to $70, that would be reasonable. And if it was a high-speed train, I’d be willing to pay more.”
In Chicago, many citizens use the passenger rail frequently.
“I rode the Metra everyday,” Connor said. “(I ride the train) if I want to do something because parking is a headache.”
There have been plans in the past to create train service through Columbus — in 2010, Ohio was set to receive $400 million to create rail service along the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland corridor, but Gov. John Kasich rejected the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, according to Midwest High Speed Rail Association.
The Columbus planning administrator, Vince Papsidero, told The Columbus Dispatch he thinks the train would be a smart investment.
“There’s economic benefit, given the amount of business activity that occurs between Columbus and Chicago,” Papsidero said. “This actually could be profitable.”
Marzalik said the main benefit of having a passenger rail between the two cities is the location.
“I feel if they can get a train from one of the three largest cities to Columbus, we would use it,” Marzalik said.
Connor said the train would also provide a new opportunity to those who haven’t visited Chicago before.
“I think it would give people in the Columbus area the chance to see Chicago,” Connor said. “Columbus is big, but it doesn’t compare to Chicago.”