Addressing comments about the Nickel Plate

Although Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness has had his way (in a meeting with zero notification to the public) for now, I can assure you, he has not heard the end of this.

I have followed this discussion since early this year when the cities of Noblesville and Fishers first announced their plans to pave the Nickel Plate railway. I am no expert and have no “dog in this hunt,” but based on my research, feel compelled to address many of the comments that have been raised on social media and elsewhere. Where facts are requested, I will gladly direct anyone to the proper source of my information. Some is, admittedly, my opinion.

1. This corridor is ALREADY developed. With the exception of a few bars and restaurants on or near 116th Street, there is ZERO undeveloped property for nearly the entire 9.2 miles north to PLEASANT STREET (not town square) in Noblesville. Unless they can convince nine car dealerships, several thriving business parks, a concrete company, the Delaware Township Offices, a landfill, a county co-op and countless neighborhoods to abdicate their properties, there will be no Scotty’s, Bazbeaux Pizza or Performing Arts Center along this pathway.

2. Although Fishers appears to be ready, financially, to pull the trigger on this project, Noblesville is absolutely not. It will be years before they are ready to develop their portion and in the mean time, what incentive is there for them to maintain it in any way? Secondly, the $9 million price tag DOES NOT include a pedestrian bridge over 146th Street, which is a necessity. Although they say it hasn’t been investigated (“we will worry about that later” – Noblesville Deputy Mayor Steve Cooke), it has. There is documentation. Estimate — $4 million. This further alienates Noblesville from the process.

My point is that Mayor Fadness really couldn’t care less about Noblesville, its taxpayers or even our officials. He wants what he wants and is willing to use them to take the heat. The problem is, if he gets his way, all value in the rail is gone as it will be fatally severed at its mid-point.

3. Where will people gain access to this trail. Sure, it might be nice to have it easily accessible to your neighborhood, but it isn’t your own “private” trail and will encourage people (most of whom will have good intentions) to find ways to and from. I remind you, that it is 100 percent bordered on the west side — primarily by quiet neighborhoods. On the east side, there are few, if any places for a “trailhead.” Ourpark and pool area, in Wellington North would be a perfect place to park, cross the ravine and gain access. We are not interested in that.

That having been said, those that proposed a rail AND trail NEVER proposed any encroachment on the west side of the railway. Concerns of tree removal and land acquisition are unfounded. All trail activity could be parallel to and on the east side of the railway. There are exactly 14 homes, In Wellington northeast that would be affected, should that eventually become a reality.

There are many other options, including trails that are already funded between Fishers and Conner Prairie and trails that already exist from South Street in Fishers to 106th Street.

The most difficult impediment to a train and trail on the footprint of the train corridor is the area crossing Allisonville Road on the south side of Noblesville. The river and low terrain complicates things.

4. The argument that the train causes congestion is absurd if the alternative is a sporadic stream of pedestrians, runners, bicyclists, pets, children, and strollers crossing 141st Street, 131st Street, etc. Operation of a freight train was NEVER proposed south of Cicero.

5. “Mass transit” to/from Indianapolis was also, NEVER proposed. Nor is it going to be. Whether you are in favor or opposed, The state of Indiana has ceased all discussion of Rail Mass Transit.

6. What HAS been proposed (and ignored by officials) is a train to be used for transportation of customers to and from a variety of events and excursions ranging from farmer’s markets and brewery tours, to the familiar State Fair Train and eventually, downtown Indianapolis events.

It would not be used for commuters or workers. It could, therefore, be scheduled to run at off-peak hours to mitigate the traffic issues that occasionally arise, particularly with 116th Street, 146th Street and State Road 32 in Noblesville.

These proposals were made by four of the five operators who submitted them. Have you heard ANYTHING about them from Mayor Fadness, et al?

The answer is, “NO,” you have not. Mayor Fadness, has slyly kept his mouth shut, and Deputy Mayor Cooke, who has, to his credit, at least tried to push his ideas in various public forums (if that’s to his credit) finds himself in the “dog house” because of his relative disdain for the alternative.

It is no surprise that the operator that was selected was successful. It is simply because they were the ONLY one considered and were able to give the mayors the “we appeased the train people” argument.

There is virtually zero interest or value in train operations between Forest Park and Tipton, IN. It works for the new operator because it gives them a place to store their equipment.

7. The ITM, although certainly not perfect, was unfairly removed from servicing this line in the interest of advancing this trail proposal (which actually shrouds the real goal, which is to acquire property on the NWC of 96th Street and Hague Road, currently bisected by the railway.) They were operating legally, safely and profitably, with no taxpayer funds until they were forced to satisfy standards which exceeded their operation.

Whether they handled themselves well is a matter for discussion, but it really doesn’t matter here. Regardless of whether they, or one of the other operators is allowed to operate from Noblesville to Indy, the fact is, the rails are ready for business.

Once removed, any talk of “rail banking” is an absurd waste of words and money. They will NEVER return.

In my opinion, an asset worth investigating much more carefully before removing ANY opportunity to capitalize. The opportunity to enjoy a relatively unique experience with friends and family while bringing people and income in to this corridor from within and without is exciting. Just ask yourself; if a train ride to Mass Ave. in Indy (for example) were available on a Saturday evening, couldn’t you take your walk elsewhere?

8. A few people have mentioned the options for health and exercise the trail would bring. In the absence of viable operation, I can’t disagree, but there IS a better option. There ARE tons and tons of other trails. Remember, we live in INDIANA. It rains a LOT, it snows a LOT and it is below freezing – a LOT. A train would not care.

9. The goal here, for Fadness is to Carmelize the center of Fishers and gain property near the airport near 96th Street and Hague Road.

The goal for Noblesville is to simplify the proposed Pleasant Street extension to create another east/west route through town.

A trail is just the tool to remove the tracks. Be wary of their tactics. They are not “giving” you a trail without having ulterior motives. It will NOT generate income, and in fact, once built for millions of dollars, will only further empty our pockets every time it needs paved, plowed, repaired or the trash cans emptied.

10. On one thing, we ALL agree — to do nothing is unacceptable and would result in loss of property values and overgrowth, etc. Interestingly, it will always be an income source to the HCPA as they own utility right-of ways along the corridor.

My hope is that we:

  • Demand disclosure of all five proposals so we can know what we are actually talking about.
  • Allow there to be a more complete discussion, perhaps even a vote.
  • Should public sentiment be in favor of a rail operation, then allow an operator a chance to prove their service and value. No money spent by government or taxpayers.
  • Should this prove impossible – pave it!


Mike Bowen


2 Comments on "Addressing comments about the Nickel Plate"

  1. Compassionate good writing. I really miss the train and the sound coming from it, even as under utilized it was.

  2. How is a new trail going to benefit the handicapped and persons with mobility issues?

Comments are closed.