Photo: Jack Snell (Flickr)
In 2008, Congress yanked funding for Amtrak lines shorter than 750 miles, giving them a deadline of October 1, 2013 to find other funding sources. The Hoosier State Line, which runs between Indianapolis and Chicago, got $3.1 million a year in federal subsidies.
Stephen Wood, Mayor of Rensselaer, which has a stop along the route says the plan moving forward is inconclusive.
“They‘re asking that the local governments kick in some money toward this thing,” something Wood says his city of fewer than 6,000 can‘t afford to do.
The Hoosier State Line was created in 1980 and currently runs four days a week and carried 37,000 passengers in fiscal 2012, or about 178 passengers per service day. Proportionally, Wood believes people in small towns like his use the line much more than larger cities, like Indy.
“Once we lose this service, I doubt we ever get it back, because there are some other places around the state of Indiana that would like to have passenger rail service,” he says.
Rensselaer is home to St. Joseph‘s College, and the Hoosier State Line serves other college towns like Lafayette and Crawfordsville.
If the Hoosier State Line stops running, it could have an effect on the Amtrak repair facility in Beech Grove, on the south side of Indianapolis. The facility employs 550 people. Wood says he believes another meeting will take place involving INDOT this week, but INDOT hasn’t said one way or another whether it will be willing to kick in some or all of the money.
Amtrak‘s Cardinal Line, which runs three-days a week from Chicago through Indy and on to the east coast, will continue because the line is longer than 750 miles. Amtrak spokesman Mark Magliari declined a request for an interview, saying he had already done numerous interviews on the topic. He says Amtrak is going into a quiet period until “they had something to react to” from INDOT.