Indiana is extending Amtrak’s contract to operate the Hoosier State passenger rail line from Indianapolis to Chicago.
The Indiana Department of Transportation and the communities along the line’s route agreed to the extension through the end of January.
The previous contract was set to expire in October and was only considered a temporary fix after Congressional funding for the line was not renewed.
INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield says the state is also negotiating with another company, Corridor Capital, to possibly take over the line’s operations and improve the service and funding model.
“There’s a lot of ideas that have been proposed and we’re working to develop a scope for that project and begin to implement. So this certainly allows some more time and keeps the service operating,” he says.
INDOT officials say some of the improvements should be implemented by January when the Amtrak contract runs out.
The state and the communities of Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Rensselaer, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Beech Grove are paying Amtrak $233,000 per month to operate the line. The state is responsible for about half the cost with the communities sharing the other half.
Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski says he agrees with the extension because of the benefits it brings to his community but the city’s financial support for the line does have limits.
“We have the capacity to do it for this next four months and we would have some capacity going forward for a reasonable period of time, but I have no intention of us funding this indefinitely,” he says. “That’s not going to be an option.”
On top of improving its finances, Roswarski says the line should improve its speed and amenities such as food options and Wi-Fi availability.