Amtrak will seek a new path into Chicago for the Hoosier State that likely would also be used by the Cardinal.
That news came out of a meeting between Amtrak President Joe Boardman and a delegation of Lafayatte, Ind., officials in Washington, D.C.
The talk of a new route came amid concerns that on-time performance for the Chicago-Indianapolis run was a mediocre 33 percent in January.
Lafayette, West Lafayette and several other communities along the route are helping to underwrite the Hoosier State through early 2016.
“There was a frank conversation regarding on-time performance,” said Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce council member Arvid Olson.
Boardman expressed a willingness to keep the route and make it work, Olson said.
“We need to have a demonstrated metric improvement for this service to remain viable, and they very much agreed this little train needs to run a whole lot better.”
Amtrak said the delays to the Hoosier State were caused by freight train interference, track and signal issues, and operating issues for which Amtrak claimed responsibility.
Boardman committed to finding a more direct route between Dyer, Ind., and Chicago, Olson said.
“Should we come to terms with CN (Canadian National), it would reduce the number of rail companies we deal with,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. The reference was to Canadian National Railway Co.
Amtrak would pay any additional costs related to using a new route, Olson added.
Boardman also committed to minimizing delays caused when the train is halted mid-route so that a new crew can board and replace employees who have reached a maximum of 12 continuous work hours, Olson said.
Currently, the quad-weekly Hoosier State and the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal use a hodge podge of routes between Chicago and Dyer.
In a related development, a consultant hired by the Indiana Department of Transportation continues to draw up a request for proposals from companies interested in operating, marketing or improving the Hooser State, INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said.
When Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and four other communities agreed to help finance the Hoosier State, the agreement included a proviso that the state will week ways to run the trains on time at more convenient times, and attract more riders to close the gap on the $2.7 million annual operating cost not recouped from more than 36,000 passenger fares paid in 2012, according to an INDOT study.
“We are making good progress with R.L. Banks & Associates and anticipate publishing a rquest for proposals in March or April,” Wingfield said. “The RFP will detail when proposals will be due and an anticipated review timeline.”
Amtrak may submit a proposal, according to Magliari. “We are very interested in seeing what is in the RFP.”