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INDOT, Railroad Administration Reach Preliminary 'Hoosier State' Deal

Stan Jastrzebski

Indiana Department of Transportation officials have reached an agreement in principal with the Federal Railroad Administration to keep the “Hoosier State” Amtrak line running indefinitely.

The line, which has faced no fewer than four threats of closure in just the past six months, was set to cease operation at the end of this month if a deal wasn’t reached.

That’s because INDOT officials balked at a Federal Railroad Administration rule requiring the state to incorporate itself as a railroad and shoulder liability for any mishaps on the line, including personal injury cases.

INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield wouldn’t elaborate on how the two sides came to an understanding on that point, but would say the deal would not have been reached if the state’s prospective financial burden hadn’t been significantly eased.

“We’ve had our legal team at INDOT, as well as some contract attorneys that have expertise in rail matters and we feel this latest development satisfies us enough that we can move forward actually and accomplish this,” Wingfield says.

Wingfield says there are still logistical hurdles to clear, including inspections of new equipment that line operator Iowa Pacific would use when it takes over day-to-day operations. The line would continue operating under the Amtrak banner, and Wingfield says the state will reevaluate its funding structure.

Some municipal officials have balked in recent months about the cities of Dyer, which has a station stop, and Beech Grove, which has a large Amtrak maintenance facility, not paying to keep the line running, even as they benefit from it. Wingfield did not say whether the stops on the line would change under terms of the new deal.

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