(In regards to the Aug. 25 cover story,) the potential loss of the railroad only partially explains why the city is so divided over the Nickel Plate Railroad issue. Yes, losing this historic and profitable asset would be devastating and a huge waste of resources. But a more important reason for the division is the way this whole affair has been conducted. The public has been completely ignored throughout as our city leaders pretended to listen to the citizens, then proceeded to pursue their own agenda. The mayor is simply feeling the effects of his exceedingly unpopular position on this issue. The people are talking but he doesn’t want to hear them. To him, it just sounds like divisiveness.
And who knows where he gets his facts. It seems he just makes them up to fit what he thinks. The Indiana Transportation Museum has asserted from the start that it could have run the Fair Train this year had the Port Authority let them. The Federal Railroad Administration ruled the tracks were safe. A few thousand dollars in track maintenance was all that was required, not the $5-10 million he cites. And that would have been ITM (private) money, not city (public) money. (The estimate of) $2.5 million to fix the Eighth Street tracks sounds ridiculous. They only run for five or six blocks. Maybe the mayor needs to bid that out to find a better deal.
Regarding the new operator, the plan they chose just smacks of a government boondoggle. Multiple private businesses have determined that traveling north isn’t profitable. It makes intuitive sense that people want to go where something’s happening, and that’s south. Yet, our city and county governments think they know better than the marketplace, and are willing to subsidize an excursion train going north. I wonder how long they will be willing to use taxpayer dollars for that misjudgment.
Regarding freight going through town, the (Hoosier Heritage) Port Authority owns the tracks. If it says no freight, the chosen operator will figure out a way to run without freight. If not, the port authority chooses another. Problem solved.
Finally, it’s so tiring to hear the continued objections to building a trail next to the railroad. It is possible if we can only find the political will to do it, but it will be more expensive and more work. It sounds to me like our leaders just don’t want to work that hard. If the mayor has any hope of uniting this divided city he better be willing to start listening and working harder to serve the people who elected him.