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Earlier this month, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced plans to take a closer look at what it would take to get the South Shore passenger rail service to Downtown South Bend. A lot of questions remain about things like cost, route, station, number of riders, economic impact and more. We think this is a good step. Downtown has been considered many times over the years, but I’m not sure anyone has had all the information they need to make an informed decision. It could carry a very high price tag. This latest study could either advance the project or rule it out. Time will tell.
In the meantime, we remain believers that the west side of the South Bend International Airport should remain a priority and our hope is that the project can move forward. The airport is an important regional asset, and for decades people from throughout the region have utilized it to access the South Shore. Both the South Shore and the airport want that to continue. We believe an improved location at the airport will make it a more desirable asset and ultimately will make the trip to the Windy City much quicker. We also believe it can be accomplished much quicker and at a cost substantially less than the downtown option. Our hope is that leaders from the City of South Bend, St. Joseph County, the airport and the South Shore help advance this project.
In addition to the passenger rail opportunity at the airport, rail freight opportunities are also available there that could help drive additional economic growth. When we plugged it into our economy model, we believe it could generate more than $470 million of economic impact.
It is important to note, we don’t believe it will mean significantly more trains on the line; just one to two freight trains per day accessing land west of the airport. There seems to be a lot of interest in that opportunity, but still some things to work out like how it gets there. We’re confident that the airport and each of the other partners are working hard to minimize any potential impacts on residents and neighborhoods, while at the same time, accommodating the passenger and freight needs.
We think a 90-minute trip to Chicago can be a key economic driver, and we’ll continue to watch the issue on your behalf. We appreciate the feedback you have shared. Overwhelmingly, our business leaders identified the airport site at a preferred location. Hopefully some good answers on downtown and especially what that will cost and how the train can get there can be answered soon so final plans can move forward. Have additional thoughts? Please let me know. Your feedback is important. Thank you.