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Local leaders look to save Amtrak route in Indiana

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Local government and business leaders are working to support continuing daily Amtrak passenger trains between Chicago and Indianapolis that could end because of a federal and state funding dispute.

Amtrak plans to end the four-day-a-week Hoosier State route — with stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer — effective October 2013. Amtrak's three-day-a-week Cardinal line that runs from Chicago through Indianapolis to the East Coast will continue.

Enhancing connections between Lafayette, Chicago and Indianapolis is one of the goals outlined in a recent community report from Greater Lafayette Commerce, organization member Arvid Olson told the Journal & Courier for a story Monday.

"It would be detrimental to reduce passenger train service to our community right at the time it has once again been identified as a key asset to retaining future leaders, especially our college-age residents," Olson said.

Amtrak and state officials plan meetings in the coming month on the estimated $4 million to $5 million a year it might cost the state to continue the service.

Amtrak says states are responsible for fully funding routes shorter than 750 miles under a funding methodology established by Congress in 2008. But state officials in Indiana disagree.

Officials in the northwestern Indiana city of Rensselaer regard the Amtrak service as a key connection with Chicago.

"Public transportation does play a part in the economy," Rensselaer Mayor Stephen Wood said. "We have people from DeMotte, Kentland and St. Joseph's College using the train service."

State Rep. Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette, said community leaders needed to be ready to get involved after Amtrak and Indiana Department of Transportation officials meet.

"It's important to be prepared in November after a new governor is elected and departments such as INDOT start presenting their budgets for internal review," Truitt said.

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  • No Feds
    Get the feds out of subsidizing transportation. If the state wants it let Indiana pay for it. If Indiana won't (that would be short-sighted) then too bad. The cart hasn't tipped yet toward rail since Indiana continues to spend $$$$$$$$$$ dollars on new, and expanding, roads. Until there is no other alternative to expanding roads only then will rail take off. They won't come if you build it, only when forced to.
  • Wrong direction
    Instead of cuts, how about some investment in speeding up the service so that it is a more viable alternative to driving on ever more congested roads. Even riding the bus is much faster right now, although one does take on the greater risk of being late due to traffic congestion. Will Indiana's leaders finally step up and get on board with improving passenger rail speed and frequency of service? We've already missed out on opportunities for high-speed rail investments because other states have shown much more interest. The same geographic advantages that allow us to dub ourselves the Crossroads of America could allow us to be the Crossrails of America also.
  • A Great Asset
    I rode the Hoosier State from Chicago to Indy last night. The train was packed. Every seat was filled. The train arrived in Indy on time, and everyone was pleased with the service. The people want this route. It beats driving, the hassles attendant to flying today don't apply, and the downtown Indy to downtown Chicago direct connection can't be surpassed. If anything, the state and Amtrak should add more trains to the schedule. One a day isn't enough. Mitch, get with the program!

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