INDIANAPOLIS — Some state lawmakers are hoping to see Indiana expand passenger rail options, even though a bill with that focus failed at the Statehouse.
Senate Bill 13 would have created a commission to study the potential expansion of passenger rail in Indiana. It passed in the Senate but did not get a hearing in the House roads and transportation committee.
Rail advocates are disappointed the bill did not move forward.
“There is a great deal of interest in Indiana in developing different sorts of modern passenger rail systems,” Steven Coxhead, president of the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, said.
State Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) had been working to move the proposal forward for several years. This was the furthest the bill had ever gone.
“It just doesn’t seem right that we don’t have one passenger rail train coming to Fort Wayne,” Kruse said.
The bill was especially timely this year, Kruse added, given the new federal infrastructure law that allows states to apply for grants to maintain or expand regional passenger rail service.
Kruse said he plans to meet with state officials to discuss Indiana’s options going forward.
“We’ll try to come up with some new alternative that maybe we haven’t thought of at this point in time,” he said.
But, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Hoosier State isn’t on track for the new federal grants.
Indiana’s budget doesn’t set aside any funding for intercity passenger rail, which the state would need to contribute to those projects, explained Scott Manning, INDOT deputy chief of staff.
“In virtually every case, INDOT and the state would need to have funding available to provide a match or a portion of a match to pursue one of these grants,” Manning said.
However, Manning pointed out that Amtrak could choose to spend some of its new funding in Indiana. Last year, Amtrak unveiled a proposal to run more trains from Chicago to both Cincinnati and Louisville, with several stops in Central Indiana.
“There’s opportunity for them to pursue funding for other routes across the country in partnership with states or a partnership of states,” Manning said.
Kruse is not running for reelection but said he has spoken with other lawmakers who are interested in reintroducing similar legislation in the future.
We’ve reached out to Amtrak for this story as well as State Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie), who declined to give the Statehouse proposal a committee hearing in the House. We’re still waiting to hear back from both of them.