Iowa Pacific Holdings

Holcomb's Budget Proposal Could Derail Hoosier State Line

Jan 10, 2019
Passengers board the Hoosier State train Friday Aug. 19, 2016. (FILE PHOTO: Chris Morisse Vizza/WBAA)
Samantha Horton

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s proposed budget eliminates the state’s annual subsidy to fund the Hoosier State Amtrak train. The announcement came as a surprise to local officials whose cities are served by the line.

Hoosier State Rail Line Funding In Question

Feb 6, 2017

The General Assembly provided $6 million in one-time money from the last state budget for the Hoosier State Rail Line between Indianapolis and Chicago. And lawmakers were prepared to provide that funding again in this year’s budget.

Chris Morisse Vizza/WBAA

A clearer picture of the progress and the challenges for the Hoosier State passenger rail service is emerging as the books close on Amtrak’s first fiscal year of operating the route in conjunction with the state, the cities served by the line, and private contractor Iowa Pacific Holdings.

At the end of August, Amtrak reported ticket sales of $886,000 for the first 11 months of the 2016 fiscal year, a 30 percent increase over the previous year.

Stan Jastrzebski / WBAA

In the crossroads of America, it's pretty easy to get around by driving or flying. But if you want to take the train, your options are limited.

Now, public-private deals such as the Hoosier State train are trying to change that.

Proponents of more rail service hope the Indianapolis-to-Chicago line so far will help prove their point to lawmakers.

On a Friday morning, the Hoosier State train is snaking north between Dyer and the Illinois state line. About 90 passengers sleep in their seats, eat breakfast in the dining car or use free WiFi.

Chris Morisse Vizza

Results are mixed one year into a two-year partnership involving the state, Amtrak, a private contractor and communities served by the Hoosier State passenger train.

The state’s goal has been to improve the route, attract more riders and generate more revenue to make the four-times-a-week round-trip service between Indianapolis and Chicago more self-sufficient.

WBAA’s Chris Morisse Vizza assess the progress thus far, and whether it’s enough to win continued funding from Indiana legislators.