With almost half the state’s funding for the Hoosier State rail line exhausted, leaders Thursday tried to rally support for increasing the frequency of the trains – even though they have no clue how they’ll pay for it.
A special train, run by Iowa Pacific between Indianapolis and Lafayette, sought to gin up interest for, as Iowa Pacific CEO Ed Ellis put it, as many as 15 trains a day along the route.
There are just two runs, four days a week now – one northbound and one southbound between Indianapolis and Chicago. And though the train is making much more money now than it was a year ago – and though May saw the first year-over-year ridership increase since the brown-and-orange trains began running last August – the line is still losing money.
Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson rode the train to Lafayette, but says there are no concrete plans to ask for additional funding for it when the Indiana General Assembly convenes its budget session in January.
“Well, we’ll definitely have to tackle that problem, because we know there is a lot of interest in continuing the service," she says. "That will certainly be part of the discussion as we go into the biennium budgeting process.”
The state is spending $6 million from its tax amnesty program, with cities along the route continuing to kick in additional money, so the train can run until at least August of 2017.