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Continuing, Improving Amtrak Line Could Cost $230 Million

The Indiana Department of Transportation commissioned a study that said continuing the Hoosier State Line could cost the state millions of dollars.

amtrak train

Photo: Mark Beeson (Flickr)

Federal funding for Indiana's Hoosier State line is set to run out Oct. 1.

Federal funding for the Amtrak service between Chicago and Indianapolis ends next week. Keeping passenger rail service going on the Hoosier State Line will be a costly effort, according to the findings of a cost-benefit analysis the Indiana Department of Transportation commissioned.

The cost-benefit analysis looks at eliminating the line, keeping it as is, and four different improvement scenarios. The study finds operating and maintenance costs range from nearly $4 million a year to $10 million, and infrastructure improvement options total more than $230 million.

The report shows revenue scenarios under each improvement option still would not cover costs.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels says he’s not sure how important it is to keep the Hoosier State Line running, but thinks it’s an important transportation option for those who do use it.

“In all honesty that’s a very small number and a very small percentage,” Daniels said. “The line could be important beyond those numbers but the reason this is an issue is it’s a drain, all such lines are, we’re not picking on the Hoosier State. So if an agreement can be worked out and it sounds like people are working on it, I think that’d be good.”

Daniels says in the end, the Hoosier State Line will likely need a huge subsidy to keep running, which means people who don’t use the service will be paying for it.

  • M.E. Singer

    First, I would look closely at the numbers/data provided by Amtrak for this analysis, as it is commonly known that such information lacks transparency and does not follow GAAP.

    Second, stare down Amtrak regarding its implied threat to the Beech Grove facilities. Amtrak cannot so easily replace this without contracting the work out, which would ignite union issues. In reality, Amtrak needs the ‘Hoosier State” just to shuttle its equipment into Beech Grove for maintenance and repairs. (This train could be re-defined and operated free, just for its connection to Beech Grove!)

    Third, for this service to ever become truly viable will require additional frequencies, faster scheduling, and some real amenities. This train needs to be defined–is it a Chicago college commuter, a business/tourist transfer to Chicago, or what? Without even bi-directional schedules for early morning arrivals in Chicago and Indianapolis, complemented with evening schedules out of both end points, the current schedule serves (minimally) only Chicago.

    Given the cost of infrastructure improvements, it is just not logical for but one train schedule. As well, how has the influence of the state been utilized with the owner of the track and signals–CSX? Are there any potential tax easements to be offered in turn for improving rail infrastructure, creating short haul intermodal services; any potential for easing traffic congestion on I-65?

    Regrettably, the “Hoosier State” will walk the gangplank for Midwest corridor runs, just as the “Southwest Chief” is being set-up similarly as a long distance train. In each case, Amtrak and the owner/operator railroad point at each other, look to state bailouts; if not coming, will just shrug and walk away. The railroad regains the slot(s) for its own freight traffic; Amtrak moves those operating funds saved into its Northeast Corridor piggybank.

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