After successfully saving Amtrak’s Hoosier line, new rail transportation projects have undergone intermittent levels of progress. The bulk of construction on improvements and new rail lines are occurring in Northern Indiana. These projects involve new commuter lines for Chicago and completed upgrades to the Amtrak Wolverine service.
However, many of the efforts to improve rail travel in Southern and Central Indiana are stalled in the planning stages. IDOT is hopeful and will continue to conduct studies that could lead to construction in the future. The improvement of existing rail lines and the construction of high-speed tracks is critical for the most effective Midwestern high-speed rail network. Efforts must continue to be made to establish both commuter rail and intra-city rail in Indiana.
The establishment of high speed rail would not only spur economic growth by creating 2,000 jobs in Cincinnati and 3,000 in Indianapolis, but also cut travel times between Chicago and Cincinnati from 10 hours to under 5. Unfortunately, despite an INDOT and ODOT report, a federal bill, and local community efforts endorsing the connection, no efforts by state government leaders are being made. Click here to learn more
IIn 2014 Amtrak's Hoosier State line between Chicago and Indianapolis lost federal funding, but in October of that year Governor Pence came to an agreement with local governments to fund the line. However, this agreement was ruled illegal by the Federal Rail Administration, thus placing the rail in danger of closing once more. A partnership between Amtrak, the state, and Iowa-Pacific Railroad, has staved off closure. Amtrak will operate the line on behalf of INDOT, with Iowa-Pacific providing the train equipment, maintenance, food service and marketing. Iowa-Pacific has plans to improve the line by increasing the amount of trips and upgrading the tracks to allow the trains to run at higher speeds.
Construction of a line connecting Bloomington to Muncie through Indianapolis was extensively studied by IDOT under the 2011 State Rail Plan. Currently tracks exist from Bloomington to Indianapolis that could be repurposed for passenger commuter rail. The report recommended further study of this route, but no further plans have been made.
The expansion of the South Shore commuter line is going forward as planned. A 2015 bill passed by the Indiana Senate and House developed a streamlined Regional Development Authority (RDA) The RDA operates and funds portions of the South Shore Line--which now has the resources for an expansion to Munster and Dyer. Additionally, communities along the line’s path pledged more funds to help complete the expansion by 2023. This expansion will increase ridership by 7,000 as well as add $5 million in new sales and income tax revenue to the local and state governments. Click here to learn more
The $71.4 million Indiana Gateway project is being constructed and when completed, in 2016, will relieve train congestion on the High Speed corridor between Detroit and Chicago. This project will add train capacity, eliminate bottlenecks, and add more routing options for trains on one of the most congested rail sections in the United States. This is an integral step to improving the Amtrak Wolverine line and reducing travel times.