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INDOT Studying Future of Amtrak, Hoosier State

Union Station Headhouse (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Union Station Headhouse (image credit: Curt Ailes)

On Thursday, May 23rd, local stakeholders will take part in a meeting that will help to shape the future of the Amtrak Hoosier State line. The Hoosier State, which runs from Indianapolis to Chicago 3 times weekly, is facing elimination due to the impending loss of federal funding. This funding currently accounts for a portion of those required to operate the service. All current Amtrak routes with operations of less than 750 miles will no longer be funded with federal dollars as of October 2013 as a result of the Federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. This act requires Amtrak to develop and implement a plan for sharing costs with states on routes of 750 miles or less.

The recently adopted Indiana state budget authorized INDOT to spend a portion of it’s annual discretionary funds on the Amtrak Hoosier State line, however, it is not mandated to do so. The study will evaluate three options for the Hoosier State in hopes of answering the questions about the future of the service:

  • Eliminate the Hoosier State service
  • Fund the service at existing levels
  • Fund the service with 79mph trains, 90% On-Time performance and increased frequency

A number of factors will be used to evaluate each alternative from local, long range planning to potential impacts on residents of the affected areas where the service makes stops along the route.

I do not have much more information about this at this point in time. Suffice to say, we love increased multi-modal transportation options here at Urban Indy, and increased frequency and speed out of the existing Amtrak offerings would be a tremendous boost for those who visit Chicago for business or pleasure. We will do our best to keep everyone informed as we learn more about what INDOT decides.

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4 Responses to “ “INDOT Studying Future of Amtrak, Hoosier State”

  1. Pat Shea says:

    I look forward to hearing about potential meetings. I think this would ge a great deal more use if; 1. They implemented the 79 mph route getting the travel time in line with driving, and 2. They put in place a more convient schedule versus leaving INdy at 6am and the return trip arriving at midnight.

    • ahow628 says:

      100% agree Pat. We recently traveled to Chicago on the Cardinal which is the same route, it just goes through from Chicago to DC and will still be operating the other 4 days a week.

      Anyway, it was quite a pain to leave at 6am and return at midnight, but since it was 5 hours each way, it gave plenty of time for reading and napping. However, I do wish it was in line with driving times (~3 hours).

      The cost of tickets ($138 for four of us) was less than parking a car in downtown Chicago for the same amount of time ($25-30/day). While we were there, we used the EL and buses.

  2. Tom says:

    The reason for the 6:00 AM northbound departure from Indy and 11:50 PM return is because that’s the schedule the Cardinal (which actually travels Chicago to New York City, not just to Washington D.C.) must use for its tri-weekly trips in our area. Keeping the same times makes things more reliable for commuters between the Indiana stops and Chicago, especially students traveling to/from Indy and Lafayette to connections with long-distance trains.

    One advantage of the present schedule between Indianapolis and Chicago (on either the Hoosier State or the Cardinal) is that it allows for 7.5 hours in Chicago for a “day trip” of shopping or sightseeing, which I have taken advantage of on several occasions with friends.

    Another big reason for funding the Hoosier State which has not yet been mentioned is its relationship to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility in the historic and huge ex-New York Central shops, which is a major employer in our area. In addition to maintaining Amtrak equipment, the Beech Grove facility also does contract repair and rebuild work on locomotives and cars of other passenger and commuter railroads. Losing the Hoosier State would mean losing the primary means by which such cars can be brought to Beech Grove for repairs or refurbishment (by being added to the revenue-generating Hoosier State, which can much more easily handle those extra cars than the Cardinal). This would quite possibly lead to the closure of the Beech Grove facility and the loss of jobs.

    Let’s vote to fund and keep the Hoosier State! Possible increased frequency would certainly be a valuable added benefit.

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