The Indiana Department of Transportation has qualified for a federal grant of up to $500,000 to explore expanding existing Amtrak rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Friday.
INDOT is expected to use the funding to develop a service plan for the Amtrak Cardinal line that would include increasing its frequency from three days a week to seven days and improving travel times. The plan calls for determining how much it will cost to make and maintain those changes.
“This is a first step toward expanding passenger rail in Indiana,” said INDOT Commissioner Mike Smith in written remarks. “Receiving this funding allows us to gather essential information to make more informed decisions going forward.”
The Cardinal line currently runs Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in Indianapolis as part of a national route that travels between Chicago and New York City via Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Amtrak also qualified for its own federal grant of up to $500,000 to explore expanding Cardinal service from three to seven days a week.
Indianapolis previously had a daily Amtrak connection to Chicago when the Hoosier State train traveled four days a week (in addition to the Cardinal’s three days), but that service was canceled in 2019 after state funding for the line was cut from the budget.
The U.S. Department of Transportation also provided the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency a similar grant of up to $500,000 to study the possibility of bringing back rail service between Louisville and Indianapolis.
U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-Indiana) applauded funding for the studies and said the state needs daily rail service from Chicago to Indianapolis to Louisville.
“Amtrak opens the door for new people to visit, work, and enjoy all Indianapolis has to offer,” he said in written comments. “The Midwest’s future is not complete without a strong passenger rail system.”
The grants are part of $8.2 billion in federal rail funding announced by the Biden administration on Friday, with more than $6 billion of that earmarked toward high-speed trains servicing California and Nevada.