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Amtrak officials reiterate route's importance to repair hub

September 15, 2013

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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