INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago will
continue for at least another year under a tentative agreement reached
between Indiana and Amtrak officials.
Gov. Mike Pence announced Tuesday that the deal will keep the Hoosier State
passenger rail service operating for one year with an option for an
additional four months. Funding for the operation will come from the Indiana
Department of Transportation and seven communities, including Indianapolis,
Lafayette and Crawfordsville.
The rail line’s future had been in doubt since Congress voted in 2008 to cut
off federal funding for passenger lines of less than 750 miles. Indiana lost
about $3 million in annual funding for the Hoosier State line. The decision
also affected 18 other states.
Amtrak had given Indiana and several other states six months of notice last
spring that new funding was needed for shorter passenger rail services or
they could face cancellation. That notice was set to expire Wednesday, but
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the rail company had continued selling
tickets for the route.
Indiana was the final state to reach a funding agreement to continue
Pence praised the agreement in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
“This agreement will make Hoosier jobs more secure and preserve an important
transportation link for Indiana,” he said.
The 196-mile Hoosier State runs four days a week and carried nearly 37,000
passengers last year. The line makes stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette,
Rensselaer and Dyer.
The service brings convention and tourism business to Indiana from Chicago,
and Indianapolis’ downtown Indianapolis train station is ideally suited for
Chicago passengers, said Bill Malcolm, a member of Hoosiers for Passenger
Rail, an advocacy group formed to push for the continuation of passenger
rail service in Indiana.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Karl Browning said Tuesday’s
agreement allows the state and local communities to build ridership and
explore ways to ensure the line’s long-term success.
That’s good news to Malcolm.
“It’s just really an asset we’d hate to see thrown away,” he said. “Once the
service ends, it will be really hard to get it back.”
Indianapolis residents wouldn’t have been completely shut out of Chicago
rail service if no new agreement had been reached. Amtrak’s long-distance
Cardinal service operates three days a week between Cincinnati and Chicago,
via Indianapolis, and was not affected by the loss of federal funding.
But Malcolm said there’s demand for a more frequent service than three days
“A lot of people can’t plan their life around that,” he said.