INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Department of Transportation has begun
negotiations with Amtrak over continuing passenger rail service four days
per week between Indianapolis and Chicago after the loss of about $3 million
in federal funding, the agency said Tuesday.
The announcement of the Hoosier State line talks came one week before a key
deadline: Amtrak has said it will not interrupt service in states that have
begun good-faith contract negotiations by Oct. 1.
INDOT already was holding talks with mayors and other local leaders in
communities with stops on the line, and the local officials are making local
funds available as part of a financing package, INDOT said.
“Governor (Mike) Pence supports the joint local and state effort to continue
this passenger rail service, but with the negotiations, there are still a
number of hurdles to be cleared,” INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning said in a
statement. “There’s common interest among state and local officials to
ensure that the service is accountable for the tax dollars being invested.”
Congress voted in 2008 to end federal support for Amtrak routes of less than
750 miles. At least seven of the 19 states affected already have signed
operating agreements with Amtrak, INDOT said.
The Hoosier State line - with stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer
and Dyer - carried 37,000 passengers last year. Amtrak’s long-distance
Cardinal service, which operates the remaining three days each week between
Cincinnati and Chicago via Indianapolis, is not affected by the withdrawal
of federal funding.
The estimate that Amtrak provided in May to keep the Hoosier State passenger
rail service in operation is $2.96 million annually. Divided among each
one-way passenger, this is approximately $80 in government support for each
$24 ticket, INDOT said.
Communities that contribute funding would have a say in overseeing
performance of the line, INDOT said. Specific contributions among all
parties will not be known until negotiations with Amtrak conclude, it said.
At the request of lawmakers, INDOT has completed a cost-benefit analysis of
the existing passenger service and four options that Amtrak provided for
improved frequency and departure times. INDOT said it will present the study
to lawmakers Thursday and post it online.