Sunday, October 22, 2000

Fast rail may come to city

Louisville & Indiana line added to list

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Federal transportation officials have given a “high-speed” designation for a railroad route to Indianapolis, possibly putting Louisville in line for a 125-mph passenger link with the Midwest.

        The U.S. Department of Transportation added the Louisville & Indiana Railroad line to its High-Speed Rail Corridor list. The decision signals that officials believe the 106 miles of track should be added to the Midwest rail corridor, a nine-state web of passenger lines centered on Chicago.

        If $10 billion in proposed funding for high-speed passenger service now before Congress becomes a reality, the Louisville-Indianapolis route could be in line for an upgrade within the decade, Indiana officials said.

        The designation shows “that the Federal Railroad Administration knows this is a logical piece of a national high-speed railroad network,” said Tom Beck, rail planner for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

        “It makes logical sense and looks economically viable when you look at the 1 million people in that (Louisville) market,” Mr. Beck said.

        Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong said the economic importance of high-speed rail goes beyond passenger service to include the kind of bulk cargo handled at the area's river ports.

        It's also important for the city to be linked to Chicago and the Midwest, Mr. Armstrong said. “We can connect out of Chicago with so many things.”

        Indiana is one of nine states cooperating in what's called the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, an alliance aimed at securing a bigger share of federal funding for passenger service.

        The states have been analyzing and planning corridor routes linking major cities throughout the region. Indiana has concentrated its efforts on a Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati line.

        That will still be the state's priority, said Ron Thomas, railroad section manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation, but the Louisville- Indianapolis line “will now have to be integrated into the overall planning process.”

        Mr. Beck was optimistic the route could be upgraded in eight to nine years.

        “The question is going to be how the Indianapolis to Louisville piece fits in,” he said. “I think Amtrak understands the importance of the Chicago-to-Indianapolis piece. It's not a real big distance from there to Louisville.”

        The line is owned by Louisville & Indiana Railroad, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Anacostia & Pacific Co., which owns and operates short-line rail systems primarily for the freight revenues.

        Currently, Amtrak's 12-hour Kentucky Cardinal run between Chicago and Jeffersonville, Ind., is the only passenger train using the line. Amtrak is considering extending the service to Louisville's Union Station.

        Anacostia spokesman Peter A. Gilbertson said the company has spent $8 million on the route and would welcome further upgrades to the line that would come with the high-speed passenger service.


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