Mayor says trails next to rail not an option for Nickel Plate Line, rail enthusiasts disagree

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FISHERS, Ind. – Scores of railroad enthusiast left the Fishers City Hall disappointed Tuesday night after a public listening session where they say their voices were not heard.

"I was disappointed," railroad enthusiast Wilbur Sutton said. "I thought it was presented as an open discussion between a rail and trail and the whole purpose of the meeting is strictly trail."

Sutton was just one of several people who came to the meeting with the hopes of sharing his passion and story about why he believes the railroad tracks should stay.

Last month, the mayors of Fishers and Noblesville and the Hamilton County Commissioners announced the municipalities’ plan to get rid of the century old railroad tracks and turn them into a paved walking trail similar to the Monon Trail in Carmel. The project would stretch 9 miles and cost about $9 million.

Tuesday was the first chance for the public to weigh in on the project. Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness was not able to attend the meeting due to a scheduling conflict. The Hamilton County Commissioners and representatives from the Fishers Park Department and Police Department were there to answer questions. Attendees were also able to fill out a form to share their opinions and concerns about the project.

Currently, there's a petition circulating online with more than 4,300 signatures hoping to save the old rail line. The petition asks supporters to write to Hamilton County leaders, encouraging them to save the train tracks and build the path alongside the railroad.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness said that compromise is not on the table.

"I do not believe from what my engineers have told me that within our current right of way bounds it would be safe to put a trail next to a rail line," Fadness said. “As a father of 2-year-old, the idea of putting a trail within several feet of a locomotive doesn’t sound like logical solution from my perspective.”

Indiana Transportation Museum Spokesman John McNichols disagrees and believes the railroad's right of way is large enough to support a trail and the tracks.

“It’s ludicrous," McNichols said. "We don’t know where they got that. No trail in the county needs that kind of right away unless it’s a park.”

Other supporters of keeping the tracks say the railroad is historically significant in the area and brings in thousands of tourist to the county each year.

Advocates for the Nickel Plate Trail say it will better connect Noblesville and Fishers and serve more people in the community. Also, they argue it would cost up to $5 million to get the tracks up and operational again. Last year the rail line closed because of safety concerns.

The next public listening session is Thursday, March 23, at Noblesville City Hall, 2nd Floor Conference Room (16 S 10th St, Noblesville, IN 46060). Residents can also provide feedback or ask questions by emailing NPT@noblesville.in.us.