Hoosier State train route in jeopardy without state funding

Indiana
Norfolk Southern train rail

FILE – This Oct. 23, 2014, file photo, shows a Norfolk Southern locomotive on Chicago’s south side. Canadian Pacific said Monday, April 11, 2016, it is ending its nearly $30 billion takeover bid for Norfolk Southern. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

Supporters of an Amtrak line that runs between Indianapolis and Chicago are lobbying for sustained public funding of the rail service, while also recognizing the route’s travel times and ridership levels need improvement.

The state has contributed $3 million annually to support Amtrak’s Hoosier State Service, a 196-mile (315-kilometer) route that runs between the cities four days a week. The Hoosier State also receives a combined $500,000 annually from five local communities along the route: Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Rensselaer.

The subsidy ends June 30 and Gov. Eric Holcomb did not include Hoosier State funding in his proposed budget for the two years beginning July 1, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

House lawmakers will introduce their own version of the budget in weeks to come.

Tod Bassler of Indianapolis, a board member of the not-for-profit Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, said the route is an important part of Indiana’s transportation infrastructure, serving businesspeople to college students.

“Killing it is not a good idea for Indiana,” Bassler said. “We’ve already talked to our lawmakers. We’re promoting a letter to write to lawmakers to ask them to continue to support funding the train.”

The Hoosier State is one of Amtrak’s 29 state-supported routes around the country. The line’s ridership is the smallest of Amtrak’s state-supported routes, and its ridership has declined over the past five years.

Congress ended federal funding for Amtrak passenger routes shorter than 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) in 2013.

If public funding for the Hoosier State were to evaporate, Indiana would still have a rail connection to Chicago. Amtrak’s Cardinal line, which links Chicago with New York City, departs Indianapolis for Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee, said he was unaware that the governor’s proposed budget does not include Hoosier State funding, but expects the issue to come up during the legislative session.

Crider, who is also a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said legislators are aware of its importance to the state, especially as freight volumes increase. “It’s a growing concern that we support the rail industry.”

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Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, http://www.ibj.com

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