Photo: Steve Baker (flickr)
Updated 3:44 p.m.
Indiana has reached an agreement with Amtrak and communities along the Hoosier State line to continue running the rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago for at least another year.
The agreement has not been signed, but state officials say once that happens, monthly payments will keep the existing service for one year with an option for an additional four months.
More than half of the money for the $2.5 million agreement will come from communities along the route, including Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Rensselaer, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Beech Grove.
“At the Governor’s direction, the agreement allows state and local partners to monitor ridership and explore service improvements to ensure long-term viability,” INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning said in a statement. “The communities that are contributing funding will have a vested interest in improving performance and ensuring accountability for the tax dollars being invested.”
A report released last month indicated improvements to the line could cost $230 million and would result in increased ridership.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says his company has been working with other Midwestern states in recent years to make the sort of improvements Indiana could explore.
“We’ve been rolling out Wi-Fi service. In other Midwestern corridors, we’ve also been adding roll-on, roll-off bike transportation so people could pedal their way to the train station and then we’d take their bike on the trains,” he says.
Magliari says other states in the region have made significant capital investments that incorporate federal grant dollars.
A state legislative panel will meet Wednesday to discuss passenger rail funding.
Talks to keep an Amtrak route between Indy and Chicago operating are coming down to the wire. The state needs an operating agreement with Amtrak by Wednesday to keep the four-day-a-week train running.
The federal government is cutting off funding for routes shorter than 750 miles.
“We are still in discussions with all parties,” INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning says. “Hopefully we will resolve that today.”
Operating the line requires $2.9 million in subsidies. INDOT has said it won‘t cover that entire cost on its own. The state has been trying to craft an agreement with mayors along the route to divide the funding responsibility.
The Hoosier State makes stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer before arriving in Chicago. Eliminating the train would still leave Amtrak‘s Cardinal route, which operates the other three days of the week.
That train originates in New York but makes the same Indiana stops as the Hoosier State, with an additional stop in Connersville before it reaches Indianapolis.
Brandon Smith contributed to this report.