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Amtrak officials reiterate route's importance to repair hub

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Amtrak officials are continuing to emphasize that the future of a repair facility south of Indianapolis could hinge on whether it begins receiving $3.1 million in annual state funding for passenger train service between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told the Post-Tribune in a story Sunday that without the Hoosier State Line service four days a week, it will be difficult for the repair facility in Beech Grove to compete for business because the trains passing through Indianapolis deliver work to the facility.

IBJ reported the possibility in an Aug. 19 story.

Amtrak officials say the Beech Grove facility repairs 150 to 175 locomotives and passenger coaches a year. It employs more than 550 workers, with an annual budget of more than $100 million and annual payroll of $30 million.

State transportation officials met last week with lawmakers, mayors and other local officials to discuss options of how to keep the Hoosier State Line running. The service could come to an end Oct. 1 unless Indiana comes up with $3.1 million annually to replace operating costs Congress eliminated for lines shorter than 750 miles.

"Our position on this is that we've not been interested in investing in this solely, but if communities along the path are interested in investing in this, it's a possibility," said Will Wingfield, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman.

If the service ends, that would leave only the Cardinal, a train running three days a week along the same route on its way between Chicago and New York, running through Indiana.

Ricky Burton, the assistant superintendent at the Beech Grove facility, questioned why Indiana has never provided any support to the rail service, since other modes of transportation receives subsidies.

"If the buses had to pay for the roads between here and Chicago, you wouldn't have bus service," Burton said. "And if the airlines had to pay for the airport in Indianapolis, you wouldn't have air service here, either."

Eric Via, a boilermaker at the facility, doesn't see it as a deadly blow if the Hoosier State ends. Just a serious one.

"There's ways around it, but it would definitely hurt it," he said. "It wouldn't exactly shut us down, but it would put us in a bind."

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., whose district is served by the line, said he believes the service is needed.

"I'm disappointed anytime there's a possibility of the loss of public transportation assets," Visclosky said Saturday. "In the future I believe we're going to see more intercity-interurban rail line instead of less."

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  • Long haul is more than long haul
    The long haul trains are just as needed as the short distance routes. In fact you can look at a long route as consisting of many short trip possibilities. I have travelled on the Empire Builder all the way to Seattle but most people do not go that far. They are more likely to use some much shorter segment of the route for their trip. Think of Chicago to LaCrosse, WI or Saint Paul to Fargo, or Grand Forks to Minot. And so on across the country. Many of these cities have no other form of public transportation. The Empire builder plays many roles in it's long trip across the northern tier of the US. I would urge "Fantasy Land" to take a trip over one of the longer routes to personally observe the passenger traffic as people get on and off the train all along the line and often in the wee hours of the night.
  • Do what the Tea Party tells you
    Shut it down and move it to Fort Worth, Texas. We have plenty of room, tax incentives, enthusiastic non-union workers, and we're on an Amtrak long-distance route, a medium distance route, and have a commuter rail line as well.
  • we won't miss it til it's gone
    But then it will be too late. People who say it's not needed have never personally needed it. But others do need it, a significant number, and others would use it if they knew more about it. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?
  • It's Easy to Guess How This Will Turn Out
    The Department of Highways (incorrectly named Department of Transportation) will team up with our world-class legislature and decide to spend the money on roads. Forward into the past!
  • 3 miles of payvement
    3 million will not even pay to resurface three miles of interstate highway. As far a paying their own way, gas taxes pay for highway construction along with other government funding. Likewise with airlines and ticket fees to pay for airports. 3 million is a bargain to access the only truly world port city of Chicago. Come on Hoosier's think outside our circle the wagon's mentality .
  • Myopic Conservatives
    Once again, myopic conservatives enthralled to the auto industry, airline industry, and other groups opposed to public transit on "principle" have "fixed" a problem that didn't exist, and in doing so, have created multiple new ones. Nowe we're looking at 350 job losses, in addition to being even-less-competitive with other cities and states that still have train service. Newsflash: It makes zero sense to subsidize 750+ mile routes but not regional routes when a regional route is the easiest sell. Consider: A train journey to Chicago is pleasant, you're not groped by the TSA, and you don't have to deal with surly airline employees. It's Win-win-win. As a bonus? It's about a wash with driving and hitting traffic on Chicago's south side, but you can sleep the entire way there. Compare with the logic of subsidizing "long-haul" routes which are better served with air travel, making the subsidy on these long-hauls a complete waste of money because nobody but the unemployed and retired have that kind of time for a "romantic" 2-3 day rail journey.
    • Not so fast...
      "Congress’ decision set a deadline of Oct. 1 for the state to take control of Amtrak and make its decision about a form of transportation that INDOT says uses $80 of government money for every $22 paid by each rider to cover costs." http://www.purdueexponent.org/opinion/article_31803081-1d74-50e6-9268-2a23f8c9934d.html
    • competitive subsidy only
      Now is the chance for the government and business community to man up and demand competitive service with the subsidy. Get Cincy and Louisville on board and we could have decent service opening travel and economic development to Chicago with Indy as a regional transit minihub. Use the subsidy as an incentive for amtrak to upgrade their lines to highspeed capacity, tie it in with the airport and market the heck out of it...

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