Rail to Trail: County partners with Fishers, Noblesville to transform rail line

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    The Nickel Plate Rail Line will be converted to 9.2 miles of trails from 96th Street to Pleasant Street. (Submitted map)
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    The Nickel Plate Rail Line will be converted to 9.2 miles of trails. From left, County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt, Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear, County Commissioner Christine Altman and Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness stand on the current Nickel Plate Rail Line. (Photo by Anna Skinner)
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    Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness introduces the project as Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear and County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt watch. (Photo by Anna Skinner)
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    The Nickel Plate Rail Line will be converted to 9.2 miles of trails from 96th Street to Pleasant Street. (Submitted rendering)
  • PowerPoint Presentation
    The Nickel Plate Trail project proposes converting 9.2 miles of the existing Nickel Plate Rail Line into a walking and biking trail. (File image)
  • Rail Trail Map
    The rail trail through Fishers. (Submitted map)

By Anna Skinner

County commissioners and two city mayors stood near railway tracks the morning of Feb. 28 as they announced that soon, a portion of the Nickel Plate Rail Line could become a trail.

The joint partnership between the county, Noblesville, and Fishers would transform the rail line into a 14-foot wide paved pedestrian trail connecting the two cities from 96th to Pleasant Street. The distance covered by the trail would be 9.2 miles.

Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness said the county has seen unparalleled success with the Monon Trail infrastructure.

“This is an idea worth exploring to have conversation with our community to turn the Nickel Plate Rail Line into a trail,” he said.

“We are proposing to connect by trail Noblesville and Fishers,” Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear added. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for all of us.”

Ditslear said the trail would add to the already existing 84 miles worth of trails through Noblesville.

“We are going to return to the purpose of what Nickel Plate is all about,” Ditslear said.

County Commissioner Christine Altman, who has served at the forefront of establishing forms of alternative transportation throughout the county, voiced the county’s support of the partnership.

“We formed this partnership to preserve this corridor for transportation,” she said. “Transportation comes in many forms, and every commute starts with walking no matter where you are. We still think this is a valuable corridor for mass transit, but at this time, the local communities don’t have local to dollars to make that happen. We think the corridor will continue to grow in value. We are planning to do what we can to preserve this corridor for future generations so they can use their best decisions to make this a mode of transportation that makes sense at that time.”

Altman said in the future, other northern communities may join the Fishers/Noblesville partnership, as well.

An approximate cost estimate for the corridor transformation is $9.3 million. Two public informational meetings will be held. The first is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. March 21 at Fishers City Hall, 1 Municipal Dr., and the second is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. March 23 at Noblesville City Hall, 16 S. 10th St

Superintendent’s View

Commentary by Dr. Allen Bourff, Hamilton Southeastern Schools Superintendent

The conversion of the Nickel Plate Railroad to a pedestrian trail from Noblesville through Fishers is an exciting next logical step in the development of Fishers as a city that works for all.  From the perspective of a school official, this announcement from the mayors of Noblesville and Fishers and the Hamilton County Commissioners is welcomed with great enthusiasm.

Not only does this proposal open what could be the most visible city commitment to physical fitness and wellness, it also opens opportunities for students at all levels to participate and to contribute to the creation of a city feature that will serve citizens for many years.

Students who take ownership in their community are students who take pride in their community. From assisting designers in the planning to composing promotional material to establishing trailside plantings to adopting trail sections for maintenance, the opportunities for students to become vested partners in a major civic project are rich and varied.

This rail-to-trail conversion presents a unique “lab setting,” in which academic standards in math, language arts, science, and social studies can easily be applied. The students and educators of the Hamilton Southeastern Schools stand ready and excited to assist the City of Fishers in developing this new community asset.

Nickel Plate Trail by the numbers

  • Estimated to cost $9.3 million*
  • The Fishers section (96th Street to 146th Street) is estimated at $4.4 million.
  • The Noblesville section (146th Street to Pleasant Street) is estimated at $4.15 million.
  • 9.2 miles of trails from 96th Street to Pleasant Street
  • 14-foot wide paved trail
  • *According to Noblesville city officials, this is subject to change, and value engineering for cost savings will be explored as part of the initial design phase.

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