Railroad and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

Indiana town balks at funding Amtrak line to Chicago

November 8, 2013

A northern Indiana town served by an Amtrak line that runs between Indianapolis and Chicago is balking at chipping in money to a state-led plan that's kept the line running.

The Lake County town of Dyer is the sole holdout in the deal that will keep the Hoosier State passenger line operating for at least one year in response to a recent cutoff of federal funding.

Town Manager Rick Eberly said Dyer declined to contribute the $5,000 per month the Indiana Department of Transportation had sought from the town to help keep the Hoosier State running. Amtrak statistics show that 2,934 passengers got on and off trains in fiscal year 2013 at the Dyer platform.

"We just don't have the ridership to justify those kind of dollars," Eberly told The Times of Munster.

Despite the town's decision not to chip in, the Hoosier State will continue to stop at the Dyer platform.

Legislation Congress passed in 2008 halted funding this fall for passenger rail routes less than 750 miles long, costing Indiana $3 million in annual aid for the Hoosier State line, which runs four days per week between Chicago and Indianapolis.

But a deal announced in early October between INDOT and Amtrak calls for the state agency to provide a $2.7 million subsidy to keep the line running for one more year, with an option for an additional four months.

Rensselaer, Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Beech Grove will put up about half the $2.7 million Indiana has pledged to subsidize the route, INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said.

Rensselaer, whose stop has the fewest passengers of any of the five Indiana stops in fiscal year 2013 — 2,239 — decided it was in its best interest to help keep the Hoosier State running, said Mayor Stephen Wood said.

He said the city plans to use some of its share of the county's economic development income tax to pay the $1,500 per month INDOT requested, totaling $18,000 for the year.

Wood said St. Joseph College and the city's history as a rail center make the subsidy worth it.

"And we just felt if we lost Amtrak service, we would never get it back," he said.

Last month, Indianapolis said it would contribute $300,000 of federal transportation money to keep the line running.

Indianapolis' share is based on the local portion of ridership, which is about 44 percent, Department of Public Works spokeswoman Lesley Gordon said.

The 196-mile Hoosier State runs four days a week. Amtrak service from Indianapolis to Chicago the rest of the week is available via the Cardinal line to New York.

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