Supporters of a passenger rail line between Chicago and Indianapolis say the upcoming selection of a private company to improve services is just the beginning, with the next step being to press lawmakers to renew their commitment to the service.
Funding for the service isn’t guaranteed after Oct. 1, when an agreement reached out last year by state and Amtrak officials to keep the rail line running expires.
The Indiana Department of Transportation and seven local governments agreed to pay a $2.7 million subsidy to Amtrak after it announced it was ending funding for passenger lines shorter than 750 miles. The decision put the future of the Hoosier State rail service, which runs from Chicago through Lafayette to Indianapolis four times a week, in jeopardy.
Bob Zier, director of multimodal program and planning for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said Amtrak has failed to meet improvements in its service sought by those communities as a condition for future funding. Among the improvements sought were improved passenger cars, Wi-Fi service and at least some modest food service on board.
“They all said if it doesn’t get better, we can’t keep throwing money at it,” Zier says.
INDOT is expected to announce a finalist in the next two weeks from four proposals for services that include operating the train route in its entirety or providing services such as Wi-Fi or food and beverage.
“The people who we’re looking at think they can do it for about the same, maybe less with new cars and Wi-Fi,” Zier said.