INDOT to Seek Rail Operator Proposals

The Indiana Department of Transportation has hired a consult to draft a request for proposals to operate rail passenger service between Chicago and Indianapolis.

INDOT said it will seek a rail operator who can better serve the needs of Indiana passengers.

The state and various communities along the route agreed last October to underwrite the cost of the quad-weekly Hoosier State, which had been in danger of discontinuance without the funding.

That funding will last for a year, but could be extended to February 2015.

That agreement also directed INDOT to seek subcontractors who could lower costs or upgrade service, an arrangement Amtrak says is common with services across the U.S.

INDOT has hired R.L. Banks & Associates to draft the request for proposals.

“We are looking to see if competition improves the options for taxpayers and riders on the Hoosier State,” said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.

Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act required states to pay most of the operating costs for routes under 750 miles long.

For the Hoosier State, that amounted to $2.7 million annually.

“[I]n some states we operate the trains but don’t provide the cars,” said Marc Magliari, a spokesman for Amtrak. “Sometimes we provide the cars, and others provide the food service or the maintenance.”

State officials expect Amtrak will continue to play an important role in running trains in Indiana, whatever response the request for proposals gets.

“Amtrak will still be a key part of the service, even if other contractors provide some services,” said Wingfield. “There will be no disruption in service.”

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