The Indiana Department of Transportation says it has begun negotiations with Amtrak over funding passenger rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago. Amtrak estimates it would take nearly $3 million annually to keep the Hoosier State Line running. Some communities along the route, including Lafayette and West Lafayette, if performance enhancements are included. The state has until October 1 to agree on a way to bridge a $3 million funding gap. A legislative committee is scheduled to examine the issue Thursday.
September 24, 2013
Indianapolis, Ind. — The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced it has begun contract negotiations with Amtrak over continuation of the Hoosier State passenger rail service, which operates four days per week between Indianapolis and Chicago.
In 2008, Congress voted to end federal support for Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles. Seven of the 19 states impacted have signed operating agreements as of Sept. 13. Amtrak has said that it would not terminate service with states holding good-faith contract negotiations by Oct. 1.
Governor Pence authorized INDOT to begin negotiations with local partners last week. INDOT has been having ongoing discussions with the communities that have stops along the Hoosier State passenger rail service. Mayors and other public officials expressed an interest in keeping the Hoosier State service operating and are making local funds available as part of the financing package.
“Governor Pence supports the joint local and state effort to continue this passenger rail service, but with the negotiations, there are still a number of hurdles to be cleared,” said INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning. “There's common interest among state and local officials to ensure that the service is accountable for the tax dollars being invested.”
Communities that contribute funding would also be involved in overseeing performance of the service on a recurring basis. Specific contributions among all parties will not be known until negotiations with Amtrak conclude.
The estimate that Amtrak provided in May to keep the Hoosier State passenger rail service in operation is $2.963 million annually. Divided among each one-way passenger, this is approximately $80 in government support for each $24 ticket. Amtrak’s long-distance Cardinal service, which operates the remaining three days per week between Cincinnati and Chicago via Indianapolis, is not affected by this decision.
At the request of its partners in the legislature, INDOT has also funded a cost-benefit analysis of the existing service and four options Amtrak provided for improved frequency and departure times. INDOT will present the results before a joint study committee of the legislature on Thursday and make the draft study report available on its website at www.in.gov/indot/3200.htm.
Source: Indiana Department of Transportation