LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Indiana leaders have until October to decide whether to spend money on an in-state passenger rail service line because Congress will no longer fund Amtrak routes shorter than 750 miles.
The Hoosier State line runs between Indianapolis and Chicago with stops in Lafayette, Rensselaer and Crawfordsville, four days and four nights a week.
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"The time has come now when we formally need a partner to expand service," said Charlie Monte Verde, Amtrak government affairs and corporate communications specialist, told state legislators last week. "The time is essentially now if you want to have passenger rail as part of your transportation system."
The Journal & Courier reports mayors and business leaders along the corridor say rail service helps attract new employers, serves college campuses and improves overall quality of life. Supporters also say the rail service impact reaches beyond the eight Indiana counties in the rail corridor and affects the long-term future of railroad service in Indiana, including freight.
"It's important if we ever want to expand the rail corridor out of Indianapolis," said Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, chairman of the House Ways and Means committee.
Rep. Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette, said if Indiana doesn't fund the line, the state falls off the map of rail service.
"Once you suspend a service, it's difficult to restart," said Max Johnson of Amtrak's policy and development office.
The route carried nearly 37,000 passengers in fiscal year 2012 but was subsidized at a cost of about $4 million.
Senate Majority Leader Brandt Hershman, R-Lafayette, said he's not interested in funding a service that is losing money but is interested in an opportunity to grow the rail service by providing a friendlier schedule.
The Indiana Department of Transportation hired an engineering consultant to evaluate what types of schedule changes might make the service self-supporting. The study is expected to be released in late summer.