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September 25, 2013

Indiana DOT begins rail service talks with Amtrak

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced it began contract negotiations with Amtrak over continuation of the Hoosier State passenger rail service, which operates four days per week between Indianapolis and Chicago.

In 2008, Congress voted to end federal support for Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles. Seven of the 19 states impacted have signed operating agreements as of September 13. Amtrak has said that it would not terminate service with states holding good-faith contract negotiations by October 1.

Governor Pence authorized INDOT to begin negotiations with local partners last week. INDOT has been having ongoing discussions with the communities that have stops along the Hoosier State passenger rail service. Mayors and other public officials expressed an interest in keeping the Hoosier State service operating and are making local funds available as part of the financing package.

“Governor Pence supports the joint local and state effort to continue this passenger rail service, but with the negotiations, there are still a number of hurdles to be cleared,” said INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning. “There’s common interest among state and local officials to ensure that the service is accountable for the tax dollars being invested.”

Communities that contribute funding would also be involved in overseeing performance of the service on a recurring basis. Specific contributions among all parties will not be known until negotiations with Amtrak conclude.

The estimate that Amtrak provided in May to keep the Hoosier State passenger rail service in operation is $2.963 million annually. Divided among each one-way passenger, this is approximately $80 in government support for each $24 ticket. Amtrak’s long-distance Cardinal service, which operates the remaining three days per week between Cincinnati and Chicago via Indianapolis, is not affected by this decision.

At the request of its partners in the legislature, INDOT has also funded a cost-benefit analysis of the existing service and four options Amtrak provided for improved frequency and departure times. INDOT will present the results before a joint study committee of the legislature on Thursday and make the draft study report available on its website at www.in.gov/indot/3200.htm.

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