Indiana's senators are calling on the Federal Railroad Administration to reconsider policies that led to the Hoosier State Line announcing plans to discontinue service. Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Dan Coats have each sent letters to FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg in hopes of preserving the line.

March 18, 2015

News Release

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly sent a letter to Administrator Sarah Feinberg of the Federal Railroad Administration and Commissioner Karl Browning of the Indiana Department of Transportation urging them to work together to continue the safe operation of the Hoosier State Line.

Donnelly wrote, “I know many Hoosiers support the state working to improve and expand the Hoosier State service. I am sensitive to concerns related to employment practices and state resources that may result from FRA policies. It also is important, however, that the state work closely with FRA to ensure the safe operation of the Hoosier State line. I also expect FRA to continue working with the state to address their concerns, while also ensuring that the safety of Hoosiers is not compromised.”

Text of the letter follows.

March 18, 2015

Karl B. Browning

Commissioner

Indiana Department of Transportation

100 N. Senate Ave., IGCN 755

Indianapolis, IN 46204

Sarah Feinberg

Acting Administrator

Federal Railroad Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590

Dear Commissioner Browning and Administrator Feinberg:

I write today to support the continued service of the Hoosier State line. I was pleased to see that the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has announced the continuation of service through the end of April, and I ask that INDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) work together to continue the safe operation of the Hoosier State well beyond that time.

As you know, the Hoosier State is an important transportation option connecting Indianapolis, Chicago, and the communities in between. Even as its future has been uncertain in recent years, demand for the service continues, with nearly 34,000 passengers during Fiscal Year 2014. I regularly hear from constituents who rely on the Hoosier State, as well as from those who would like to see the service improved and extended into southern Indiana communities and Cincinnati, Ohio.

I know many Hoosiers support the state working to improve and expand the Hoosier State service. I am sensitive to concerns related to employment practices and state resources that may result from FRA policies. It also is important, however, that the state work closely with FRA to ensure the safe operation of the Hoosier State line. I also expect FRA to continue working with the state to address their concerns, while also ensuring that the safety of Hoosiers is not compromised.

It is my hope that INDOT and FRA will quickly reach a resolution that will ensure the safety and continued operation of the Hoosier State line. If I may be of assistance, please do not hesitate to let me know. I stand ready to assist you.

Sincerely,

Joe Donnelly

United States Senator

March 11, 2015

News Release

Washington – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) today sent a letter to Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), to urge the FRA to reverse its decision to designate the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) as a “railroad carrier” with regard to the Hoosier State Line rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago. INDOT recently notified the FRA that it would terminate the Hoosier State service, rather than assume the costs associated with a “railroad carrier” designation.

“The FRA should look to Amtrak for equipment upgrades and regulatory compliance, rather than forcing these obligations onto INDOT,” wrote Coats. “INDOT is not in a position to assume either the additional liability or the regulatory burdens that a designation of ‘railroad carrier’ would impose. I am concerned that, if the FRA does not relent on its determination, INDOT will have no choice but to allow the current contract to expire.”

The text of the letter is below:

March 11, 2015

Dear Ms. Feinberg,

I am contacting you about the recent decision by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to designate the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) as a “railroad carrier” with regard to the Hoosier State Line (HSL) rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago. I urge the FRA to reconsider its unwarranted determination in order to avoid termination of the HSL.

INDOT has historically contracted with Amtrak to operate the HSL service. Due to the HSL’s inadequate quality of service, however, INDOT proposed to contract with a third party to enhance the service and encourage additional ridership. Amtrak continues to operate the rail cars, provide engines and crews, and operate the reservation and ticketing services. INDOT does not function in any of these capacities. It does not “conduct rail operations over rail infrastructure.” Indeed, INDOT does not fit any common-sense definition of a “railroad,” so the communities along the HSL are rightly puzzled by the FRA’s decision. Furthermore, Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act does not mandate—nor does it even provide for—the FRA to designate a state department of transportation as a “railroad carrier.”

Amtrak operates the HSL, and it has heretofore functioned as the “railroad carrier.” The FRA should allow that relationship to continue as part of a renewed contract. The FRA should look to Amtrak for equipment upgrades and regulatory compliance, rather than forcing these obligations onto INDOT. INDOT is not in a position to assume either the additional liability or the regulatory burdens that a designation of “railroad carrier” would impose. I am concerned that, if the FRA does not relent on its determination, INDOT will have no choice but to allow the current contract to expire. I am confident that INDOT would much prefer to improve the HSL rather than terminate the service. Thus, I urge FRA to reconsider its decision and seek a workable solution to this problem with all the parties involved.

Source: Office of U.S. Senator Dan Coats

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