Federal high-speed rail grants exclude big Indiana proposal

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has nailed a stake into the heart of Indiana’s long-suffering high-speed rail movement—excluding an ambitious Indiana project from $8 billion in stimulus grants announced Wednesday.

The Indiana Department of Transportation had applied for $2.8 billion for a route between Chicago and Cleveland that would have passed through northern Indiana and through or near cities such as Fort Wayne.

Dennis Hodges, vice president of Merrillville-based Indiana High Speed Rail Association, said officials have not received a satisfactory explanation for why the project was not funded. But Hodges noted that Indiana leaders for years have lacked widespread and vigorous support of any sort of passenger rail.

“Indiana has a long way to go to be a player in the passenger rail movement. We barely fund the South Shore [Railroad], let alone anything else," Hodges said. “Indiana has not been in the forefront of passenger rail.”

President Obama’s push for high-speed rail funding had been seen as perhaps the best opportunity yet in terms of getting track laid.

State transportation officials expect to receive about $71.4 million for Indiana's part of a planned high-speed rail project that would run from Chicago to suburban Detroit. About 30 miles of that route passes through northwestern Indiana along Lake Michigan's south shore.

The money will help speed up Amtrak passenger and freight service on Indiana's portion of the route by building passing tracks, crossover tracks and signal improvements—the first step to turning the route into a high-speed line.

Despite the setback for the larger high-speed rail project, the association plans to build support among bureaucrats and elected officials, on Friday holding a luncheon in Gary that includes Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo as keynote speaker.

High-speed rail funds will go to 31 states, helping to build 13 new high-speed rail corridors nationwide. Others approved for funding included $810 million toward a Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison route in Illinois and Wisconsin.

INDOT never bothered to apply for funding of a Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati route that Hodges said had had been shown to have the highest potential return on the dollar.

INDOT officials responded that federal funding criteria favored routes furthest along in planning and had the potential to be completed more quickly.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


  • Rail Czar and INDOT Dance on Indiana Failure
    Rail czar brings Obama's push to Northwest Indiana

    The Friday's event also gave Szabo and INDOT Commissioner Michael Reed their first chance to answer questions about why Indiana's application for $2.8 billion to build a high-speed rail route from Chicago to Cleveland failed to win stimulus dollars.

    "It wasn't a failure," Szabo said after the luncheon. "On the contrary, we were excited to see the application come in because it's a very important part of the vision for the Midwest Regional Rail plan."

    Reed spoke directly to the rejection of Indiana's application at the luncheon, saying INDOT will confer with the Federal Rail Administration and others on why the application came up short.

    "We were obviously disappointed we did not get selected for the Chicago-to-Cleveland high-speed rail route, but we will continue to pursue that," Reed said.

    Indiana's application requested more money than was won by any single high-speed rail corridor project in the nation.

    INDOT did not even apply for money on the Federally designated high speed rail corridor from Chicago through Indianapolis on to Cincinnati OH and Louisville KY.

    Indiana's High Speed Rail grant request was weak and lacked enthusiasm compared to Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois.

  • The Lack of Leadership is Embarrassingg
    To busy talking about Vision... and being Republicans that can't change with the times, to realize that we need to be building in and up instead of out. We can't even get these so called leaders to understand we need density so we can actually do what they say they want, less government and less spending of our Tax Dollars. They need to start Funding Smart Growth, so we can some day have trains again. Right now our State leaders need to first show the Feds that they get it, or we will continue to be left behind. Our leaders messaging should be what Scott Brown's, Massachusetts new Senator was as he just won. "Our Tax dollars need to go back to the Businessman which will have both immediate and Permanent benefits to our economy.â??
    â??Every dollar released from taxation that is spent or invested needs to help create a new job and new salary and these new jobs and new salaries will create other new jobs and other new salaries.â?? Not just roads â??We plan to grow economy bottom up organically with Land Use Urban Planning with Smart Growth vs. allowing sprawl creating larger government and more expense.â??........ So Tired of this City and State Leaders Hippocratic Beep, Beep, Beep.
  • Avon4HighSpeedRail
    I agree MassTransit, IN is slipping further behind neighbor states in this important future economic growth opportunity, and Gov. Daniels and INDOT officials should be held accountable for not supporting advance planning and vigorously competing for the Chi-Indy-Cincy route funding. Perhaps our GOP leaders been preoccupied trying to defeat healthcare reform, cap & trade and other progressive initiatives? This is a major loss for all IN citizens and businesses, all of whom would prosper from a Chi-Indy-Cincy high speed corridor -- both during construction and for years in the future. We just took a major step backward as other states leap forward. A major opportunity lost. Let's hope new leadership can reverse IN's lackluster performance to date and be ready to compete for future rail funding.
  • wake up INDOT !
    If INDOT's excuse for not making a proposal for funding of the Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincincatti line is that the money goes to the better developed proposals, aren't they just saying that they didn't start early enough or work hard enough to try and secure these funds?

    It sounds like a leadership shuffle should be in order, as we are losing the competition to be a part of the 21st century Midwest business corridor. Being the last line to be built means we might not get high speed service until 2030, far after competing cities in the Midwest have all linked themselves together. C'mon Mitch! Get real about this or we will be left in the dust by our surrounding states.
  • We Got Next
    Hopefully we can leapfrog our neighboring states and go directly to TRUE high speed rail...220mph. At this speed, Indianapolis and Cincinnati become almost sister cities, and Lafayette becomes a 40 minute ride to downtown Chicago, effectively making it a suburb of both Indianapolis and Chicago.

    No surprise that "Not My Man Mitch Daniels" doesn't understand how important being connected to these cities is for business travel but also the ability to gain and retain recent college graduates. If going to Chicago for the weekend only took a little over an hour, Indianapolis is suddenly an acceptable place to live for MANY more highly educated people that wouldn't even consider us today.
  • IndyPat
    I love railroads and rail travel but I think we should let some other states with a more developed route lead the way. Indiana will have the opportunity to get its toes wet so to say with the miles across the top of the state.
  • Is Indiana Doing Better Than Other States?
    Governor Daniels hates AMTRAK and is more interested in building roads than improving Indiana's rail, airports, or water ports.

    He is a non-stop record on how he sold the toll road in 2005 and is using it to build roads, while Billions of dollars each year go to other states for many different types of infrastructure.

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