Hoosier State Will Make Final Trips on April 1

Faced with a decree from the Federal Railroad Administration that supporting an Amtrak train makes the state a railroad, the Indiana Department of Transportation has decided to get out of the passenger train business.

The department said Friday that it will end its support of the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State and the train will be discontinued. The last day of operation will be Wednesday, April 1.

Discontinuance of the Hoosier State will leave only the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal left on the route.

INDOT said in a news release that the FRA is using Indiana as a test of its policy that an entity involved with a rail operation is a railroad despite the fact that it owns no tracks or passenger equipment.

“Passenger rail providers and the host railroads are already required to comply with FRA rules,” INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning says. “Requiring a redundant layer of bureaucracy would not create improvements in passenger rail service or safety, it would only increase taxpayer costs.”

INDOT had been working with Amtrak and at least two private service providers during the past year to save the Hoosier State service.

The news release said the agency had been making progress in negotiating long-term agreements with Amtrak and Iowa Pacific Holdings.

Amtrak would have served as the primary operator of the train and worked with the host railroads as well as provided train and engine crews, and managed reservation and ticketing.

Iowa Pacific would have provided the train equipment, train maintenance, on-board services and marketing.

INDOT said it was modeling its vision for the Hoosier State after Amtrak’s Piedmont service, which operates between Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation owns the track over which the Piedmont operates and contracted with Amtrak and private contractors.

NCDOT sued the FRA in 2008 when it attempted to place the same impediments on the Piedmont service.

INDOT said it was unsuccessful in convincing the FRA to formally reconsider its decision. Copies of INDOT’s correspondence with FRA and letter of intent with Iowa Pacific are available at http://www.in.gov/indot/3200.htm.

Until fall 2013, the Hoosier State had been part of Amtrak’s basic route network. However, Congress voted in 2008 to end federal funding for certain Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles.

Local governments in most communities served by the Hoosier State in tandem with INDOT agreed to fund the Hoosier State for a year.

That agreement was later extended until April to give the parties time to negotiate a longer-term contract.

Six years later, the FRA is developing rules governing states that now support the cost of passenger rail services.

Under new rules that the FRA sought to test with Indiana, all states that support passenger rail services would be considered railroad carriers.

Calling this a “burdensome interpretation,” INDOT said it will exposes states to significant increases in cost, paperwork and liability, including:

• Liability for the actions of passenger rail providers up to $200 million for each occurrence of injury, death or property damage,

• Hiring new staff to monitor plans and programs in compliance with federal rules, and

• Interpretation that state employees are rail employees, subject to retirement and employer liability rules and limits.

In Indiana, the Hoosier State as well as the Cardinal serve Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. The Cardinal also serves Connorsville, Ind.

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One Response to “Hoosier State Will Make Final Trips on April 1”

  1. Tyrell Swint Says:

    They want little “Sub-Amtraks” for the states!

    Amtrak wants is equipment and crews back from the states!

    They also don’t want to be held liable in any way if an accident–like the recent one in California–happens!

    This recent ruling has similarities to the Amtrak problems with the start-up of SunRail in Orlando!

    Insurance was a problem with that commuter railroad getting started!

    The FRA ruling goes hand-in-hand with the “750 miles”
    Rule that was passed down!

    Basically, Indiana would have to form a “New Jersey Transit” for their own state!

    The feds want everything off of their books!

    I wonder if Washington, Oregon, and Virginia will have to adhere to the same rules that Indiana has to adhere to!

    How about Texas and Oklahoma!

    New York has the Empire Service and Adirondack!

    Vermont has state service with Amtrak! Maine has the Downeaster!

    This will be interesting to see how everything plays out in the future!

    Good post!

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