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Rail News: Amtrak

Indiana DOT, FRA near deal on Amtrak Hoosier service


The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced yesterday it has reached an "understanding" with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that could keep the Amtrak Hoosier State's Chicago-to-Indianapolis route running.

INDOT and the FRA have disagreed over who had responsibility for safety issues related to the line. The dispute has threatened to shut down the service. But a discussion breakthrough occurred last week when INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning met with FRA staff.

They agreed that Indiana's contracts would require Amtrak and Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, separately, to comply with all Amtrak and FRA requirements, said INDOT officials in a press release. Additionally, INDOT would designate a staff member who would oversee contract compliance.

"INDOT and the FRA share the guiding principles of access to safe mobility," Browning said. "Based on these guiding principles, we are both committed to a path toward continuing the Hoosier State service."

INDOT will continue existing Hoosier State service in the near term until agreements are finalized between Amtrak and Iowa Pacific, INDOT officials said. Under the proposal, Amtrak would serve as the primary operator, work with host railroads, provide train and engine crews, and manage reservation and ticketing. Iowa Pacific would provide the train equipment, train maintenance, on-board services and marketing.

"We are confident that our joint commitment will help enable continued safe access for passengers between Indianapolis and Chicago," said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg in a prepared statement. "We look forward to continuing our productive discussion to reach a positive outcome with the state of Indiana."