INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance (IPRA) is calling on the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to continue passenger rail service from Indianapolis to Chicago past January 31.
The Hoosier State is operating on a four-month extension of a one-year contract signed a year ago October by INDOT and communities served by the railroad. The agreement stipulates the parties will share in the approximate $3 million annual operating cost of the 196-mile railroad between Indianapolis and Chicago.
“The four month extension ends January 31 so it’s imperative INDOT, participating communities, Amtrak, and a possible, new private Hoosier State developer reach an understanding sooner, rather than later, as railroad passengers need to make their travel plans in advance,” IPRA President Steve Coxhead says.
The traveling public continues to demonstrate it wants this rail service. For instance, on a single day just before Thanksgiving, 145 passengers boarded the Hoosier State train in Lafayette for Chicago, he says.
The Indianapolis-based organization is in the process of funding a business case and economic development plan for the Hoosier State corridor, which stretches from Chicago, thru Indianapolis, to Cincinnati and Louisville.
Conversations continue with two Ohio organizations to determine their interest in daily passenger rail service. Those groups are the Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Association of Governments, Coxhead says. Two Southern Indiana counties – Fayette [seat is Connersville] and Dearborn [seat is Lawrenceburg] — are also seriously interested in expanding the service beyond Indianapolis, he continues.
“We want Governor (Michael) Pence, INDOT Commission (Karl) Browning, and the state general assembly to support a more equitable funding mechanism for the railroad.
While many states are funding passenger railroads of less than 750 miles – as required by Federal law – Indiana is the only state asking for substantial financial support from communities and counties served by a railroad, IPRA says.
Amtrak – the current and likely future operator of the passenger rail service – has in recent months made good on promises to improve the service with Wi-Fi, limited food and beverage service, and business class seating. Partnership arrangements with Greyhound are providing further connectivity for the traveling public, Coxhead concludes.