For the record: INDOT spokesperson Will Wingfield emailed on Sept. 17 to note a clarification about this story's references to federal rail grants:

In addition to the $71.4 Indiana Gateway project, INDOT submitted a $2.8 billion application for rail service from Chicago to Cleveland. The news release is linked here.

INDOT is also providing matching funds for the grant-funded development of a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement and Service Development Plan for Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac, which is being led by the Michigan DOT. More information is at


stands to lose its Hoosier State Amtrak line from Indianapolis to Chicago if

the state fails to identify $3 million in local funding to cover the train's

operating costs by a federally imposed Oct. 1 deadline.


deadline has been on the calendar for five years, since Congress passed the

Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act of 2008, which included a provision

that required states with passenger rail service lines of less than 750 miles

to take financial responsibility for the routes — or lose them.


part of the PRIIA's mandate of rail-related funding equity among the states, a

multi-state working group partnered with Amtrak to devise a "single,

nationwide standardized methodology for establishing and allocating the

operating and capital costs among the States and Amtrak."


Indiana's case, that methodology requires the state to cover 80 percent of the

Hoosier State's operating costs for fiscal year 2014, or $3 million by Oct. 1.


vocal groups of activists, from all points on the political spectrum, are

rallying in support of the Hoosier State, others — most notably officials

with the Gov. Mike Pence administration — are less than enthusiastic

about the train's value.


to an auditorium packed with people at an Aug. 21 Amtrak


in Lafayette, Troy


chief of staff at the Indiana Department of Transportation, kept

his message simple.


approached this with an open mind," Woodruff said. "When [the PRIIA]

came through Congress, we opposed it as an unfunded mandate. That position for

us hasn't changed. We don't believe this subsidy should be the responsibility

of the taxpayers of Indiana."


rough analysis breaks down as follows: The Hoosier State line's operating and

equipment expenses of about $3.87 million for the upcoming year are anticipated

to be offset with revenue of about $907,000. With an estimated 37,000

riders paying $23 per ticket, that leaves Indiana subsidizing each passenger by

about $80, he said.


spent an estimated $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2012.


anticipation of the pending deadline, the biennial budget

passed by 2013 Indiana General Assembly endowed INDOT with the authority to

fund the Hoosier State, but legislators did not require state officials to do

so. In line with the "open mind" approach, Woodruff said that INDOT

commissioned a study to analyze a variety of options, so officials can consider

the cost of doing nothing, funding the line at its current service level or

expanding the frequency and speed of the line to accommodate two or four trips

a day.


course, added service and performance means added cost, Woodruff noted, arguing

that revenue increases other states have seen as ridership grows in response to

service improvements would not be alter his assessment of the bottom line: "There

will be subsidization no matter what ... unless we are willing to charge more

(for tickets)."


the study has yet to be released, Woodruff offered the audience a basic

assessment of his agency's thinking thus far.


view this as a bad model, not a good investment," he said. "Not that

we won't participate ..."


keeping the Hoosier State is important to local communities and stakeholders,

Woodruff added, "We will come to the table; we can work collaboratively

with you, we will have a hand in this. We will be a piece of the pie, a sliver

of the pie — but not the whole pie."

Diverse dividends


Randy Truitt, R-Lafayette, doesn't look at the funding request as a subsidy.


word is investment," he said. "I look at this as a great opportunity

to invest in something that may not fit a typical business model of revenue and



summit speakers highlighted similar themes, arguing that investing in improved

passenger rail service should be considered a critical component of the state's

economic development strategy — that the dividends of such an investment

would be evident far beyond the train's total ticket revenue.


don't personally see this as any different than TIF (tax-increment finance)

investments or tax incentives," Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said. "I

see this as an investment in economic development — something we need to



a global economy, he said, "competitiveness is paramount."


after speaker emphasized the importance of how Indiana relates to China and

other economic leaders, in terms of attracting investment and recruiting top

talent to study, work and raise families here.


Chinese operate the largest high-speed rail system in the world; by 2015, they

will operate nearly 16,000 miles and achieve their goal of uniting an extremely

diverse nation," said Arvid Olson, who helped organize the Amtrak summit

and serves on the Greater Lafayette Commerce Quality of Life Council and as

director of development at Faith Ministries.


noted that a train connecting the 1,428 miles between Beijing to Guangzhou

takes 7.5 hours — and the seats convert to full-length beds.


of Eric Angermeier's role as general manager at Lafayette's Nanshan American

Advanced Aluminum plant involves welcoming Chinese companies looking to invest

in the U.S. and, more specifically, Indiana. Chinese executives expect rail to

be a part of the transportation mix, he said.


passenger rail would help attract investment and create jobs," Angermeier

said, noting Nanshan considers passenger rail to be a growth industry.


it is good for our business. We continue to believe passenger rail will

continue to expand in the U.S.; it is growing quite rapidly. We hope Indiana

can be part of that growth. We need to look for ways to keep it viable and expand."


February 2013 study of the Midwest high-speed rail supply chain by the

Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center

found that 99 Indiana

business support the rail industry through manufacturing and related services

— the second-largest number of rail-tied firms in the Midwest.


Indianapolis, greater ridership could be a boost for Union


and Downtown business, noted freelance journalist Bill Malcolm, who

attended a rail support-building meeting in Indianapolis on Aug. 19.


is unique among Midwest cities in having an Amtrak station steps from Downtown

hotels," he wrote in an email exchange following the meeting. "Since

60 percent of convention visitors come from Chicago, this needs to be more

heavily promoted."

Millennial milieu


only do international executives view passenger rail as part of a modernized

transportation mix, international students do as well.


Lafayette Mayor John Dennis noted that Purdue University supports the

second-largest international population of any university in the country.


they come with cars and drivers licenses?" he asked. "No, they come

with the expectation of an efficient and reliable transportation system.

Passenger rail is not something they are optimistically hoping for, it's something

they expect."

This dynamic is evident in Indy as well. IUPUI and Butler reported stats on incoming classes this week.


international students than ever — 1,837 or 6 percent of the student body

— enrolled in IUPUI this fall. India surpassed China as the lead feeder

country this year.

And at Butler, the university reports: "The Class of 2017 comes from 32 states and 22 countries. Forty-three percent are from Indiana, and 57 percent are from out of state. This is Butler's highest percentage of out-of-state students in history. Approximately 25 percent of the class comes from nearby Illinois."


and more domestic students — and young graduates — are looking for

rail options as part of the transportation mix as well.


president of the Purdue University Student Senate, Micah Matlock was the summit's

sole panelist under the age of 30.


confessed that when he first received the invitation to speak, he thought the

panel was about expanding rail options and was "surprised" to find

out that the topic involved possible cuts to service.


state officials conduct their cost-benefit analysis to determine whether an

investment in Amtrak is warranted, Matlock encouraged them to consider the

impact of bringing new students into the state and retaining that talent.


rail, (students) will not be impressed with Indiana or want to stay here,

period," he said.


added that, as far as making a business case for Amtrak, when Indiana succeeds

in scoring students from out of country and out of state, "that is money

coming from out of Indiana."


some other issues he considered to be relevant, Matlock said: "Amtrak is

cool, the technology is cool. It's good for the environment ... and reduces wear

and tear on highways. Airfare is not affordable and gas prices are rising.

Also, tuition is frozen, but still ... one of my friends just paid $450 for one

book for one class.


of these costs are not very easy on the pocket books of students."


said he would submit a recommendation on behalf of the Purdue University

Student Senate that Amtrak be supported in Indiana.


analyzing the economic issues as stake when considering the Hoosier State's

fate, Lafayette Commerce's Olson split his time between explaining the

investments others are making in rail — in other states and around the

globe — and in emphasizing that the millennial generation's approach to

life is quite different from that of generations before.


is the slowest generation to buy a car in 60 years," he said. "In

1982, 80 percent of 18 year olds had a driver's license. In 2012, it was 60



dreams do not require 2.3 kids, a house in the suburbs and a fleet of cars.

According to study after study ... they have a new way of doing community."


of age today means owning a smart phone, not a car, Olson said.


don't they want to drive?" he asked, holding a smart phone is front of his

face. "They can't do this while

they're driving.


need to preserve and enhance passive transportation."


pointed to the competition Indiana faces in neighboring states. Normal, Ill.,

is about the same distance to Chicago as is Lafayette and, he said, that town

has 10 passenger trains into the city, carrying 300,000 passengers a year.


are starting to build high-rise apartments near the station because young

people can live in an affordable, safe community and be in downtown Chicago in

1 hour and 45 minutes," Olson said. "That is faster and cheaper than

commuting everyday from Schaumburg or Elgin by car."


the Hoosier State could generate the same amount of ridership, ticket sales, at

their current $23 price point, would generate $6.9 million in revenue —

more than two times next year's projected annual operating costs.


State supporters also point to the environmental and safety benefits of rail.


letter the Hoosier Environmental Council is circulating in support

of the

Hoosier State notes: "Cars and light trucks use over one and a half times

more energy per passenger mile than Amtrak trains. Improved rail travel means

less dependence on oil, and lower motor vehicle emissions as travelers choose

rail over auto travel."The communities that rely on the Hoosier State are

also the communities that clean up the accidents along I-65.


highway deaths dropped 23 percent from 1994 to 2011, according to the National

Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System


Still, in 2011, 750 people died in Indiana auto accidents — 85 of those

deaths occurred in Marion County.


2012, 12 people died on I-65 in Indiana counties between Indy and Chicago.

Meet the Hoosier State


Hoosier State leaves from Downtown's Union Station four days a week:Sunday,Tuesday,Wednesday and Friday.


trip takes five hours, leaving at 6 a.m.Eastern

Standard Time and arriving in Chicago at 10:05 a.m.Central

Standard Time. Return trips leave Chicago's Union Station at 5:45 p.m. CST,

arriving in Indy at 11:50 p.m. EST. The route includes stops in the Indiana Towns

from Dyer at the Northernmost, south through Rensselaer, Lafayette and



Hoosier State's ridership hit almost 37,000 last year — an increase of 77

percent from 2002. During the first half of fiscal year 2013, ridership

increased by 5.8 percent and revenue rose by 15.1 percent, making July 2013 the

best revenue and ridership month in the line's history, according to Ray Lang,

Amtrak's chief of state relations.


considering the potential to build ridership, increase revenue and improve

performance, Lang noted that 42 percent of Indiana's population lives within 25

miles of an Amtrak station. In addition, the line serves eight of Indiana's

college campuses.


Hoosier State also hauls equipment in need of repair to Amtrak's maintenance

facility in Beech Grove, a giant installation where an estimated 550 Hoosiers

work on trains from all across the nation. The Beech Grove shop is the only

Amtrak facility in the U.S. where services such as diesel engine repair and

dining car overhauls are performed.


an important piece of the Amtrak network — we couldn't survive without

the Beech Grove facility," Lang said. "It's the only place we can

maintain bi-level super equipment; that equipment will not fit under the wires

on the East Coast."

Beech Grove


Amtrak's principal heavy maintenance facility, the Beech Grove shop —

which covers 300 acres and houses 1 million acres of under-roof shop space. The

company estimates annual wages paid at $49 million. In addition, Amtrak

estimated its annual 2012 Indiana-based procurement expenses at $21.5 million.


short, folks, Central Indiana cannot afford to lose this vital asset,"

Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley said.


regards to Woodruff's contention that the $3 million expense of the line cannot

be justified, Buckley said, "I respectfully disagree — and I'll give

you 61 million reasons why I disagree: That's what Amtrak contributes to local



Hoosier State allows Amtrak to haul equipment on a passenger line, which gives

it priority over freight trains. In fact, Lang said, the Hoosier State line

grew out of Amtrak's need to haul equipment to the Beech Grove facility without

delay. Without passengers, the shop trains did not have priority over freight

trains, sometimes delaying transport by more than 24 hours.


of the Hoosier State's fate, Amtrak's Cardinal Line would continue to run

between Indy and Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays as a part of

long-distance route between Chicago and New York. But it would not offer the "shop

train" flexibility that the Hoosier State enables.


forward, this dynamic raises the question of whether the Beech Grove facility

could remain a vital maintenance hub for the company should Indiana forgo

support of the Hoosier State line. On the flipside, with Amtrak expanding

services and adding new amenities to its cars, summit speakers also said they

can see the possibility of expansion at the Beech Grove shop.

Other states


states provided Amtrak with $191 million in operating support for 21 different

routes during fiscal year 2011, the company said.


states are pursuing aggressive upgrades with more frequent and faster service.

In cases where Wi-Fi service is added, ridership jumps can be seen the next

day, Lang said, noting that efforts to enable people to be more productive as

they travel are meeting with "great success."


highlighted the train-to-air market share rates between several cities where

upgrades have been implemented. For the route between New York and Washington

D.C., Amtrak controlled 77 percent as of the first quarter in fiscal year 2012.

Its Acela Express makes the 226-mile trip in just under three hours. On the

187-mile Seattle-Portland route, rail controls 69 percent of the market and for

the 86-mile trip between Chicago and Milwaukee, 89 percent of travelers chose

rail over air.


that proves is with fast, frequent service, you can be a relevant

transportation provider," Lang said.


Olson sees Indiana's lack of rail investment in comparison to surrounding

states as an even greater challenge than the immediate issue of whether state

officials will save the Hoosier State.


2000 and 2009, of the $1.9 billion Midwestern states spent on rail investment,

Indiana spent $150,000 — or about $15,000 a year. And rather than

facilitate higher line speeds, Olson said, the state granted CSX's request to

reduce top speed on the line between Lafayette and Dyer from 79 to 60 miles per



lack of enthusiasm for rail investments left the state sidelined in a recent

round of federal grant distribution. Between 2009 and 2012, the federal

government sent Midwestern states $2.6 billion to support rail



received about 3 percent of that money.


one grant was submitted by Indiana," Olson said. "It was the Indiana

Gateway grant to provide better access in Northwest Indiana for the three

passenger trains operated by the state of Michigan on their increasingly busy

trips to and from Chicago."


one of two Indiana appointees to the 11-state Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail

Commission, Rep. Truitt said he was disheartened to find that local rail

service could not deliver him in a timely manner to the committee's meeting in

Kalamazoo, Mich.


I am, a commissioner from Indiana, and I couldn't take the train," Truitt



was, however, able to take a high-speed line from Chicago across northern

Indiana to Kalamazoo that hit a top speed of 110 on its 2 hour-and-16 minute

journey. That experience marked the highpoint of his journey. The meeting

itself just served to highlight how far Indiana lagged in terms of rail assets.


the states were bragging about their rail involvement and I didn't have much to

say," Truitt said.

What's Next


the deadline for cutting service just over three weeks away, Amtrak said four

states at risk of losing routes have signed boiler-plate contracts to maintain

existing service.


officials have yet to determine a course of action as they await the results of

the feasibility study, which they anticipate having by mid-September. No public

meetings are planned to review the findings, though INDOT plans to publish the

study to the department's website site upon its release.


Sen. Brandt Hershman

, R-Buck Creek, encouraged the audience at the Amtrak

summit to approach rail advocacy in pragmatic terms. He asked people to think

about and communicate what would inspire them to use rail service more often

— or at all.


challenge," he said, "is to not pound the lectern and say, 'We want

rail service!' But to go to lectern and say, 'We want rail service and here is

how we can make it work.'"


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