The Indiana Department of Transportation’s effort to continue and improve the Hoosier State Rail Line has been rescued by a tax-amnesty program passed by state lawmakers.
The program, part of the budget bill approved late Wednesday night, will allow individuals and businesses to pay back taxes without penalty. The first $84 million collected will go to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. for its Regional Cities initiative. The next $6 million will go to INDOT for the Hoosier State line.
The rail line from Indianapolis to Chicago will receive a total of $3.6 million in each of the next two state fiscal years, thanks to additional contributions from Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Rennselaer.
The money will subsidize a pending INDOT contract with Iowa-Pacific Holdings, which plans to provide more comfortable passenger cars, more trips and better on-board service, said Arvid Olson, transportation specialist for Greater Lafayette Commerce. The state and local money will also support a shuttle from Bloomington to Crawfordsville, so that several college towns in the western half of Indiana will be connected to the line, he said.
Indianapolis is also a stakeholder on the Hoosier State line, but its contribution so far is in the form of improvements to Union Station.
“There’s almost zero awareness of this train in Indianapolis,” Olson said. “That’s something we’re going to work very hard to change.”
Both the House and Senate versions of the budget had provided money for the Hoosier State, but the funding was withdrawn during a late conference committee because of a lower state revenue forecast.
Olson said fiscal leader Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, came up with the tax-amnesty program. The program is expected to generate more than the $90 million allocated to the IEDC and INDOT. The remainder will go to the state general fund, according to the budget bill.