The Herald Bulletin

September 16, 2013

Amtrak: Ind. funding could impact repair facility


The Associated Press

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. — Amtrak officials say Indiana's willingness to pay at least $3 million annually for passenger train service between Indianapolis and Chicago also could impact a repair facility south of Indianapolis.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told the Post-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1ef1DCK) in a story Sunday that without the Hoosier State Line service four days a week, it will be difficult for the repair facility in Beech Grove to compete for business because the trains passing through Indianapolis deliver work to the facility.

Magliari said in an email to The Associated Press on Sunday that Amtrak is "reasonably confident" that if the service were stopped it could manage the workload so it would not result in staffing reductions.

State transportation officials met last week with lawmakers, mayors and other local officials to discuss options of how to keep the Hoosier State Line running. The service could come to an end Oct. 1 unless Indiana comes up with $3.1 million annually to replace operating costs Congress eliminated for lines shorter than 750 miles.

"Our position on this is that we've not been interested in investing in this solely, but if communities along the path are interested in investing in this, it's a possibility," said Will Wingfield, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman.

If the service ends, that would leave only the Cardinal, a train running three days a week along the same route on its way between Chicago and New York, running through Indiana.

Ricky Burton, the assistant superintendent at the Beech Grove facility, questioned why Indiana has never provided any support to the rail service, since other modes of transportation receives subsidies.

"If the buses had to pay for the roads between here and Chicago, you wouldn't have bus service," Burton said. "And if the airlines had to pay for the airport in Indianapolis, you wouldn't have air service here either."

Amtrak officials say the Beech Grove facility repairs 150 to 175 locomotives and passenger coaches a year. It employs more than 550 workers, with an annual budget of more than $100 million and annual payroll of $30 million.

Eric Via, a boilermaker at the facility, doesn't see it as a deadly blow if the Hoosier State ends. Just a serious one.

"There's ways around it, but it would definitely hurt it," he said. "It wouldn't exactly shut us down, but it would put us in a bind."

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., whose district is served by the line, said he believes the service is needed.

"I'm disappointed anytime there's a possibility of the loss of public transportation assets," Visclosky said Saturday. "In the future I believe we're going to see more intercity-interurban rail line instead of less."

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