Deal reached to save Amtrak route

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A deal has been reached to save Amtrak service between Indianapolis and Chicago, after state officials considered cutting the rail line, the Indianapolis Star reports

Indiana officials considered cutting the line because of a change to federal regulations that they said would have increased the cost of operating the route. 

But the state’s transportation department has reached an agreement with Amtrak and private rail company Iowa Pacific Holdings to keep the trains running, according to the report. 

“We have separate contracts signed with Amtrak and Iowa Pacific Holdings contingent on completion of [a section of] track,” Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield told the paper. 

{mosads}The Indianapolis to Chicago line, which is known as Amtrak’s Hoosier State route, is one of Amtrak’s “state-supported routes.” States pick up the tab for such shorter routes, which are usually within their borders, in an effort to boost Amtrak’s reach in parts of the country where rail is not as popular as it is in the northeast U.S. 

Indiana had considered cutting the service to Chicago because of a move by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to legally consider states the operators of short-haul routes for liability purposes, instead of Amtrak. Under the agreement, Amtrak will be considered the operator of the trains between Indianapolis and Chicago and Iowa Pacific will be considered a contractor who is doing business with the state of Indiana.  

Lawmakers in both parties from Indiana lobbied the FRA to tweak the rules to allow Indiana to keep the trains to Chicago running.  

“I am contacting you about the recent decision by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to designate the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) as a ‘railroad carrier’ with regard to the Hoosier State Line (HSL) rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago,” Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) wrote in a letter to Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg in 2014. 

“I urge the FRA to reconsider its unwarranted determination in order to avoid termination of the HSL,” Coats continued. 

The Hoosier State Line is one of nearly 30 state-supported Amtrak routes that have become popular with state lawmakers as a way to boost commuter rail service within their jurisdictions. 

Amtrak has said its state-supported routes were responsible for 14.7 million of its 30.9 million overall passengers in the 2014 fiscal year, which concluded at the end of September. The Hoosier State Line carried 33,930 passengers during that period, according to the company.

Tags Amtrak Dan Coats Hoosier State line State-supported routes

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