City Council Sets Sights On Transportation Funding Questions

By Jeff Neumeyer

February 11, 2014 Updated Feb 11, 2014 at 6:24 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- Funding for roads, a rail study and establishment of a new connector flight with an East Coast city were on the plate Tuesday evening for Fort Wayne City Council.

Should Fort Wayne go full speed ahead in trying to determine if restoring passenger rail service through the city is a good idea?

Council planned a vote on whether to spend $250,000 in CEDIT tax revenues for a feasibility study.

Other communities on the proposed route from Columbus Ohio to Chicago are waiting and watching.

“We have cities up and down the line, from Gary, Plymouth, Valparaiso, Warsaw, and even into Ohio, Lima and so on, that are looking to see what Fort Wayne does. It's very important we move forward on this," said 5th District Democratic Councilman Geoff Paddock, who has crusaded for a return of rail service in Fort Wayne.

Republican Tom Smith would like to see the rail study happen, but he has a different priority.

Officials with Fort Wayne International Airport are asking for $600,000 in city Legacy monies to help an airline underwrite a new connector flight between the city and an East Coast hub, reportedly Philadelphia.

Smith figures funds could be limited.

“If push comes to shove and we don't have enough money to go around, I've got to choose air over rail, because air is a long standing need," said Smith, who represents constituents in the 1st Council District.

An item that's just getting introduced to city council is a multi-million dollar bond issue that would fix up roads, sidewalks and curbs all over town, over an 8-year period.

Last year, council adopted a local income tax hike to bankroll infrastructure improvements.

Republican Councilman Russ Jehl didn't like plan "A", a 10-year payback schedule that he feared would keep us in a pattern of debt.

He thinks the new 8-year payback proposal might be easier to swallow.

“Are we no longer stuck in tax, spend, bond, and so I'm going to look at that very closely. But my initial inclination is, yes, that this does look like a path to get out of that cycle," said Jehl, 2nd District Councilman.

The $30-million bond issue could be voted on before the end of the month.

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