Amtrak, Indiana Ponder Fate of ‘Hoosier State’

The Indiana Department of Transportation will begin negotiations with Amtrak on a funding agreement to save Amtrak’s Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis.

The train, which operates four days a week on the days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate, will continue operating through Oct. 16 while negotiations are underway.

The Cardinal uses the same route in Indiana and Illinois as the Hoosier State.

Federal law requires Amtrak and states to reach funding agreements by Oct. 1 to retain trains that operate less than 750 miles.

Other states where Amtrak operates corridors discussions with Amtrak in 2011 after they adopted a framework for categorizing costs and revenues. However, Indiana refused to sign the agreement with the other 18 affected states.

But a March 15, 2012, rules by the Surface Transportation decreed that Indiana was compelled to comply with its terms. Amtrak has reached agreements with eight states – Virginia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, Washington and California – to continue corridor service. Amtrak said it provided pricing information to INDOT in April and a draft agreement in July.

“If we don’t have an agreement by Monday, Sept. 30, Amtrak will begin steps to notify its employees and the public of the impending suspension of service of trains 850 and 851,” an Amtrak spokesman said.

The spokesman said Amtrak’s cost estimate to retain the Hoosier State is $4 million. The annual cost Indiana would pay is $2.96 million, a reduced number that is likely the result of on-going discussions between Amtrak and its state partners within the framework of federal legislation.

The Hoosier State is used to ferry equipment between Chicago and Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops in south suburban Indianapolis, a fact that undoubtedly weighs on the decision makers for both the state and Amtrak.

Indiana has said it will reveal a state-funded cost-benefit analysis of the existing service and four options Amtrak has provided for improved frequency and departure times on its website at www.in.gov/indot/3200.htm.

INDOT has explained the benefits of daily passenger rail service by dividing the $2.963 million annual cost by the number of annual passengers, which results in $80 of government support for each $24 ticket.

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