Amtrak backers try to build support
August 19, 2013 10:04PM
An Amtrak train bound for Chicago pulls into the Dyer train station. Supporters of maintaining Indianapolis to Chicago service will meet Wednesday in Lafayette. | File photo
Updated: September 21, 2013 6:21AM
LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Supporters of maintaining daily Amtrak passenger service between Indianapolis and Chicago are looking to step up their lobbying push ahead of a state decision whether to annually contribute $3 million toward keeping it going.
Greater Lafayette Commerce is hosting what it calls a statewide summit on Wednesday to focus attention on the possible loss this fall of the four-day-a-week Hoosier State route in October. That would leave only another Amtrak line that runs between the cities three days a week.
One of the Hoosier State’s stops is in Crawfordsville, where Mayor Todd Barton said many people have told him they consider the train service important and he believes it is worth fighting to keep.
“Businesses and industries interested in coming here look at things like train service,” Barton told the Journal Review. “Daily service is paramount to our economic health.”
The Hoosier State route is in jeopardy as Congress eliminated funding for lines such as it that are shorter than 750 miles in 19 states effective Oct. 1.
Eric Angermeier, manager of the Nanshan America aluminum extrusion plant in Lafayette, said the regular passenger train service is a quality of life factor for people such as his daughters, who are in their 20s.
“The younger generation is not as willing to purchase homes or cars,” Angermeier told the Journal & Courier. “It’s a generational thing, and we want to keep young people here in Lafayette. It’s important.”
Some riders consider the Hoosier State inconvenient because of its departure times of 6 a.m. from Indianapolis and 7:30 a.m. from Lafayette — and then its scheduled return time of 11:50 p.m. in Indianapolis.
Despite those drawbacks, the routes advocates point to Amtrak reporting 4,135 people boarded the Hoosier State in July, 355 more than in July 2012.
Indiana Department of Transportation leaders have expressed skepticism about subsidizing the service. But officials will review an independent study of the Hoosier State line that’s due in September before making a decision, agency legislative director Abby Weingardt told the Indianapolis Business Journal.
Some northeastern Indiana officials are expected to speak at the Lafayette event about their efforts to restore Amtrak service through Fort Wayne that ended in 1990.
The Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association raised $80,000 for a feasibility study and a tentative business plan to establish a 300-mile passenger rail line from Chicago to Fort Wayne to Columbus, Ohio.
“The orthopedics industry in our area wants access to O’Hare Airport in Chicago,” said Fred Lanahan, the group’s president.
“There are large businesses in Columbus and satellite operations in Fort Wayne that want to be able to get their people back and forth.”