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INDOT, FRA Reach Deal To Keep Hoosier State Line Running.  
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration reached an understanding of the clear lines of accountability for passenger rail safety and accessibility between Indianapolis and Chicago, allowing Indiana to implement long-term improvements to the daily service.


INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning met in Indianapolis with FRA staff last week to discuss the roles and responsibilities for providing safe passenger rail service. Indiana’s contracts would require Amtrak and Iowa Pacific Holdings, separately, to comply with all Amtrak and FRA requirements. In addition, INDOT would designate a staff member responsible for overseeing 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 plans to continue existing Amtrak Hoosier State service in the near term until agreements can be finalized with Amtrak and Iowa Pacific. Amtrak, FRA and U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspections of Iowa Pacific equipment are ongoing.


The four-days-weekly Hoosier State (Trains 850 & 851) and the three-days-weekly Amtrak Cardinal (Trains 50 & 51) provide daily service between Indianapolis and Chicago and enable passengers to reach the national Amtrak network.


Long-term service plan

For the past year, INDOT has been working to improve passenger rail between Indianapolis and Chicago on behalf of the state and communities with stops along the Hoosier State line. Recently, INDOT has been making progress in negotiating long-term agreements with two experienced passenger rail providers, Amtrak and Iowa Pacific.


Under the proposed service, Amtrak would serve as the primary operator, working with host railroads, providing train and engine crews, and managing reservation and ticketing. Iowa Pacific would provide the train equipment, train maintenance, on-board services and marketing.


For more information, visit IN.gov/indot/3200.htm. Follow Twitter.com/INDOT or Facebook.com/IndianaDepartmentOfTransportation for updates tagged #AmtrakHoosierState.



Other view: Can Hoosier State line be saved?  If there’s any glimmer of hope of saving the Hoosier State passenger rail service from Indianapolis to Chicago, it’s the growing list of players on board in condemning a Federal Railroad Administration ruling that sent the most recent contract negotiations into a skid…..This isn’t some random stand on federal-vs.-state principle. This is a line the communities along the route have persuaded that state to keep. This is a line the communities along the route have chipped in money to keep going until a longer-term plan could be found.  {An outdated story based on the above, but has useful background on the controversy.} http://www.pal-item.com/story/opinion/editorials/2015/03/24/view-can-hoosier-state-line-saved/70372434/


Macomb mayor: Proposed Amtrak budget cuts would hurt city.  Amtrak could loose [sic] more than 50 percent of its state funding and that means fewer trains in the Tri-States….”So many students from the metropolitan area of Chicago rely, absolutely rely on Amtrak to get to and from Western Illinois University and come to Macomb,” Inman said. “Whether they go home every weekend or every month or every two months or whatever. In many cases, it’s their only reliable form of transportation to get to and from home.”  http://www.wgem.com/story/28636598/2015/03/27/macomb-mayor-proposed-amtrak-budget-cuts-would-hurt-city


Rochester rail goes ahead amid pushback.  Despite resistance from some of the communities in its path and fiscal conservatives, a proposed high-speed rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities called ZIP Rail is moving forward. The Illinois Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) announced two weeks ago that it intends to begin the $2.3 million first phase of an in-depth environmental study required for the project called an environmental impact statement (EIS). The entire study could cost around $7 million, and building the rail line is expected to cost roughly $2 billion to $4 billion. Meanwhile, bills are currently being discussed in state legislature that would ban public spending on ZIP Rail, including spending on the EIS. http://www.winonapost.com/Article/ArticleID/43444/Rochester-rail-goes-ahead-amid-pushback


Our view: Amtrak is staying — and that’s good news.  What good news — the Southwest Chief Amtrak passenger train is keeping its route through Northern New Mexico. That’s some of the best economic news we’ve had in a while. Amtrak decided to keep its trains riding through Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy and Albuquerque after two years of speculation that it would abandon the route. That would have meant economic disaster for the small towns that depend on jobs and economic activity from train passengers, not to mention for the many rural residents who depend on train travel for mobility. Raton would have been especially hard hit, considering the thousands of Boy Scouts who visit Philmont Scout Ranch. They take the train, exit at Raton and then travel on to the ranch. There really isn’t a more efficient, safer way to move thousands of Scouts a summer.  http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/commentary/our-view-amtrak-is-staying-and-that-s-good-news/article_c69d0b5f-02ba-5f97-8544-d08eba320cc3.html