INDIANAPOLIS– As the Federal Railway Administration and Amtrak hammer out their plans to expand passenger service, some industry experts say Indiana is lagging behind neighboring states in doing the same.
”Indiana seems to be the state that is doing the least right now,” said Steven Coxhead, Indiana’s private sector commissioner with the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC).
Coxhead said Indiana has only requested federal funding to boost service between Indianapolis and Chicago — leaving individual cities to make their own requests.
”The Fort Wayne Regional Planning Organization has requested funding for a Chicago-Fort Wayne-Lima-Ohio, Columbus-Ohio corridor,” Coxhead said. ”The city of Louisville has requested Corridor ID funding for Louisville to Indianapolis.”
INDOT said it’s keeping its focus on the Indianapolis-Chicago corridor due to issues with staffing and resources. The department’s strategic communications director said INDOT applied for a $500,000 federal grant to help create a strategic plan for that corridor.
”Track improvements, facility improvements, operating costs, ridership statistics: we’d be looking at all of those things,” Natalie Garrett with INDOT said.
Garrett said the department will know by the end of this year if INDOT will receive the grant. In addition to expansion efforts, Coxhead said INDOT and Amtrak are working to solve an ongoing congestion (or bottleneck) issue for passenger trains heading westbound and eastbound through Northern Indiana.
”It’s known as the South of the Lake Reroute, so that is just discussions so far, but at least it is moving forward,” Coxhead said.