UPDATE: Groups propose extending rail line into Indianapolis

Several proposals have been made to extend rail line service from the northern suburbs to downtown Indianapolis.

Four proposals were submitted this week to the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority for expanded service along the Nickel Plate rail line, The Indianapolis Star reported. The 37-mile line runs through Marion and Hamilton counties.

Three proposals suggest running trains from Tipton to downtown Indianapolis. Those plans come from the Indiana Transportation Museum, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Railway Co. of Indianapolis, and Hoosier Heritage Railroad Inc. of Fishers.

Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad of Arcadia proposes train operations from Noblesville to Tipton, just north of Hamilton County.

The port authority sought applications from potential operators of the rail after failing to reach an agreement with the transportation museum about track repairs and maintenance. The port authority ended its relationship with the museum last year, but allowed it to reapply. The museum had run its trains on the tracks for about 30 years.

The museum proposed investing $1.5 million over five years for track repairs and maintenance if it was awarded a long-term contract. Museum officials weren't able to provide an estimated cost for the expanded service.

The port authority will rank the bids by July 1, though there is no deadline for a final choice.

Any plans to run train service into Indianapolis would conflict with another plan to change the rail corridor into a pedestrian trail.

Officials in Fishers and Noblesville, which split ownership rights along with Hamilton County for the railroad, are seeking to convert sections that run through their communities into a 14-foot-wide trail.

Hamilton County Commissioner Christine Altman said running tracks into downtown Indianapolis would be expensive and complicated.

She said similar plans have been proposed before, she said, including a planning board study 10 years ago that found the project too daunting.

The fate of the trail has been the subject of debate for months.

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