(right left) Ken McMullen (MDot) Matt Webb (HNTB Consultant) Mohammed Alguhurabi (MDot) Tom Walls (City Ft. Wayne) look over plan

(right to left) Ken McMullen (MDot), Matt Webb (HNTB Consultant), Mohammed Alguhurabi (MDot) and Tom Walls (City of Ft. Wayne) look over plan specifics in Gary on October 30, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media

The Michigan Department of Transportation is overseeing the project alongside agencies in Indiana and Illinois.

The plan considered using existing Amtrak lines between Chicago and Porter, Indiana, but none would allow for more trips per day or the high speeds that are necessary. Currently, Amtrak offers three round trips daily between Chicago and Detroit.

Officials discussed four routes that would require capital investments ranging from $2.3 billion to $3 billion and annual maintenance of about $155 million. Two of the routes might have an impact on the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and all would require construction of bridges and other structures to avoid freight traffic in Northwest Indiana.

All but one of the possible routes would stop at the Hammond/Whiting and Michigan City stations, but project officials said there is talk about building an additional station in Northwest Indiana. No likely candidates have been named, but several attendees mentioned a stop near the Gary/Chicago International Airport as being ideal.

The Rev. Asher Harris of the Northwest Indiana Interfaith Alliance said a connection between passenger rail and the airport makes sense.

“There should be something happening, particularly with the possibility of passenger airlines,” Harris said. “We certainly need a connection.”

Harris said a project of this magnitude also could spur economic development in Gary.

“We don’t want our citizens left behind,” he said. “There must be jobs.”

Dennis Hodges, of Gary, vice president of business relations for the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, said the airport always has been envisioned as transportation hub for the region.

Miller resident David Chary said the corridor is great idea to boost train travel between Chicago and Detroit. But recent construction on U.S. 12 has limited residents’ ability to avoid railroad crossings and traffic congestion in the area, and Chary worries that the high-speed rail project could exacerbate those issues.