The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has begun contract negotiations with Amtrak for continuation of the Hoosier State passenger-rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago, INDOT officials announced yesterday.
The discussions are in response to congressional action taken in 2008 to end federal support for Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles. Seven of the 19 states affected have signed operating agreements with Amtrak as of Sept. 13. The railroad said it would not terminate service with states involved in "good faith" negotiations as of Oct. 1, INDOT officials said in a press release.
Last week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence authorized INDOT to begin negotiations with local community partners. INDOT officials have held discussions with representatives of communities with stops along the service. Mayors and other public officials have expressed interest in keeping the service operating, and are making local funds available as part of the financing package, INDOT officials said.
"Gov. Pence supports the joint local and state effort to continue this passenger-rail service, but with the negotiations, there are still a number of hurdles to be cleared," said INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning. "There's common interest among state and local officials to ensure that the service is accountable for the tax dollars being invested."
Communities that contribute funds would help oversee the service. Amtrak has estimated the cost to maintain the Hoosier State's operation would total about $3 million annually.
At a legislative committee meeting to be held later today, INDOT is scheduled to present results of a cost-benefit analysis of the existing Amtrak service and four options for improved service.
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