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Fishers, Noblesville to reveal plan for trail along Nickel Plate railroad corridor

February 27, 2017

Local officials from Fishers, Noblesville and Hamilton County are expected to announce plans to open a trail along the Nickel Plate railroad corridor.

The announcement is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.Tuesday in Fishers.

The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, a quasi-government entity operated by Fishers, Noblesville and Hamilton County, owns and maintains the 37-mile Nickel Plate railroad corridor from Tipton to downtown Indianapolis.

Officials have been discussing ways to use or improve the rail line for months following a fallout between the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority and the Indiana Transportation Museum, which operated the popular Indiana State Fair train.

The fair train, which carried people from the northern suburbs to the Indiana State Fairgrounds for more than 30 years, ceased operations in 2016 after some of the volunteers running the train alleged that the tracks and signals were unsafe.

In January, the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority announced that the Indiana Transportation Museum will no longer manage the train and that it would search for a new operator. That likely means the state fair train will not run this year as well.

An inspection of the line determined that about $5 million in repairs were needed before it could be operational again. Making the necessary improvements just along the line from Fishers to the state fairgrounds could be more than $2 million.

Hamilton County Commissioner Christine Altman said in a public meeting earlier this month that Noblesville and Fishers had been discussing the use of the rail line for trail purposes.

Altman said the communities were researching ways to accomplish that possibility without removing the rails because they could lose the right of way if the rails were removed.

One possibility is through a federal "rails to trails" program that would allow the right of way to be banked, meaning the rail could be used again for transportation in the future.

“To me it’s a community asset and community issue,” Altman said at the commissioners' Feb. 13 meeting. “We’re exploring every option at this point.”

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