Fate of Hoosier State Amtrak route facing questions

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Supporters of a passenger rail line from Indianapolis to Chicago say the upcoming selection of a private company to improve services is just the beginning, with the next step being to press local and state lawmakers to renew their commitment to the service.

Funding for the service is not guaranteed after Oct. 1, when an agreement hammered out last year by state and Amtrak officials to keep the rail line running expires. The Indiana Department of Transportation and seven local governments agreed to pay a $2.7 million subsidy to Amtrak after it announced it was ending funding for passenger lines shorter than 750 miles. The decision put the future of the Hoosier State, which runs from Chicago through Lafayette to Indianapolis four times a week, in jeopardy.

Bob Zier, director of multimodal program and planning for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said Amtrak has failed to meet improvements in its service sought by those communities as a condition for future funding. Among the improvements sought were improved passenger cars, Wi-Fi service and at least some modest food service on board.

"They all said if it doesn't get better, we can't keep throwing money at it," Zier told the Journal & Courier.

But INDOT is expected to announce in the next two weeks a finalist from four proposals for services, which include operating the train route in its entirety or providing services such as Wi-Fi or food and beverage.

"The people who we're looking at think they can do it for about the same, maybe less with new cars and Wi-Fi," Zier said.

Zier said an administrative review panel must approve the recommended proposal, and then the governor's office must sign off on it before INDOT can announce which vendor the state plans to use.

State Rep. Sheila Klinker, a Lafayette Democrat and alternate on the state budget committee, said she plans to press House and Senate committee members to support the proposal. She believes passenger rail will need subsidies from local and state government to survive.


  • Waste
    Funny also how the USA builds a 2 billion dollar embassy in Iraq and cuts amtrak funding. If any of you are wondering where your tax dollars are really going, you should wake up and goto costofwar.com Wake up people
  • Plenty of cash
    For those of you bashing amtrak subsidies. Just read today that big tobacco companies will pay a 217 million $ settlement to Indiana over the next two yrs. Indiana has the money to pay 3 mil a yr to keep the indy -Chicago line running.
  • More Trains, Fewer Cars
    Phil, that is like saying that cars(which I assume is your preferred method of transportation) is 1886 technology. Who rides a train in America? Consider that New York Penn Station handles more passengers than the busiest Airport in the world. Cars can be great, but they have gone from being something which gives us more freedom to something which most of us are completely dependent on to live our lives.
  • About time
    WTH, why is everyone up in arms over 1800 technology. Times have changed, who rides a silly, train in America, other than sightseeing in the mountains. Might still have a great use for cargo shipping, but passengers, get real folks.
    • Show me the Money
      Indiana can spend 400 Million a year on more and more roads and yet they won't budge an inch on upgrading and improving rail lines. It baffles me. This should have been top priority. Far ahead of widening 69 or 65.
    • New tracks?
      Yes newer cars and services typical of other Amtrak routes is necessary. However, will this new company upgrade the tracks? That's what is needed. The news showed one trip last year that took passengers 12 hours to get from here to Chicago. Rail is supposed to be faster. There must be an effort to upgrade the tracks and the surrounding land so that trains can run efficiently. Once there are new tracks in place, and travel time is reduced to 3 hours MAX, then work on the frequency of service. Once again, wi-fi and food options are not enticing to a traveler if you can only leave from here to Chicago in the morning and return the next day. There should be at least 3 trips offered to Chicago per day and 2 trips offered from Chicago. People travel back and forth between the two places all of the time. It's not like this is a foreign concept. Also, increasing the frequency will make travel between here and Lafayette easier as well. There are people who live here and work in Lafayette. Not for sure about vice versa, however, there's probably a few. Regardless, having more options would do more for intercity travel within the state.
    • All Transportation Requires Subsidy
      Wilburrrr! Except for walking, show me a form of transportation in the USA that does not require subsidization: roads paid for by local, state, and federal taxes subsidize cars and trucks; airports and the FAA's air traffic control system keep the airlines in the air; even oceanic shipping is dependent on government investment (Query: who built the Panama Canal?). What makes rail travel different?
    • Amtrak is Unconstitutional
      Can Indiana secede from the Union? How corrupt a government. They will subsidize AMTRAK heavily in the Northeast. So much so those peeps can have their cars shipped to FL for the winter with subsidy. Just shut down Amtrak completely or let the freehand of the marketplace determine fares. Not that I am necessarily supporting Govt Subsidies in Indiana but if they actually offered a product to compete with the inefficient Indpls Airport ( a complete waste of taxpayer $$- fewer direct flights and less passengers than before they blew a Billion $$$...) buyer and seller could meet in the marketplace.

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