Bidders Sought to Operate the Hoosier State

The Indiana Department of Transportation has issued a request for proposals from entities interested in operating the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

The train, which is now operated quad-weekly by Amtrak, is currently being funded by InDOT and most of the communities at which it stops.

InDOT and the communities of Rensselaer, Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, and Beech Grove $2.7 million to fund the Hoosier State. InDOT said the purpose of the request is to obtain competitive bids to operate and optimize the service.

If a party other than Amtrak wins the bidding, it would take over the serve when the current agreement with Amtrak expires on Sept. 30, 2014. Indiana’s agreement with Amtrak can be extended through Jan. 31, 2015, by mutual written agreement of the parties. The state and its partners want the selected contractor not only to reduce the cost of operating the train, but also work with INDOT and Hoosier State Partners to improve operations, attract higher ridership and bring in increased revenues, thereby further reducing costs. Bidders have three bid options:

  1. Perform all functions presently performed by Amtrak on the Hoosier State service
  2. Bid on some portion of those functions
  3. Perform all functions presently performed by Amtrak, and add amenities such as Wi-Fi and food service

“The future Hoosier State rail service will connect Indianapolis and other Indiana cities to Chicago with additional trains, increased speed between stations, improved on-time performance, increased ridership, and improved on-board amenities,” InDOT said in a statement that accompanied the request for bids. “The enhanced passenger service will generate more revenue, and reduce the amounts which Indiana Department of Transportation and Indiana Hoosier State Partners are obliged to pay to subsidize this service. The future Hoosier State intercity passenger rail service will reinforce Indiana Transportation goals and objectives by providing safer, more reliable, efficient movement of passengers, in a manner, which is more cost effective. The future Hoosier State service will further alleviate roadway congestion, contribute to economic development, improve energy efficiency and protect environmental quality.”

Bidders must explain what improvements will be made to service quality and how such improvements will be implemented and maintained. INDOT and its partners will be especially interested in any ideas for improvement of on-time performance, the RFP said. The state is interested in a three-year contract, extendable for additional three years, based upon mutual agreement. Amtrak has access rights by law to freight railroad corridors, and Amtrak pays only incremental maintenance costs for this access.

Bidders must show the expected access cost to operate over CSX, CN, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, Belt Railroad of Chicago, and Metra. Bidders should recognize that the list of railroads could change, since rerouting in the Chicago region is being considered, the state says.

One potential bidder might be Iowa Pacific Holdings whose president, Ed Ellis, told Trains magazine that, “We are evaluating it. We haven’t decided, but it is of great interest, and Indiana is being innovative in their approach.”

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