Amtrak’s Hoosier State has received a 60-day lease on life. The quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train was to end after its contract expired on Saturday although Amtrak and Indiana Department of Transportation officials had hinted that it would continue rolling.
The two parties announced on Friday that they have agreed to continue negotiating a long-term contract whereby Amtrak will continue to operate the train but an INDOT contractor would provide some services.
“INDOT is negotiating renewal of the service on behalf of the state, Beech Grove, Crawfordsville, Indianapolis, Lafayette, Rensselaer, Tippecanoe County and West Lafayette,” the agency said in a news release.
Those communities had agreed in 2013 to fund the Hoosier State through early 2014.
“In recent weeks we have made much progress on a long-term deal,” said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield, adding that he expected the deal to be finished before the extension is exhausted on April 1.
The survival of the Hoosier State was cast into doubt after Congress voted in 2008 to require states to absorb most of the funding of Amtrak trains with routes shorter than 750 miles.
The change affected 19 states and all but Indiana have found funding solutions.
Initially, INDOT and its seven local government partners agreed to pay Amtrak $2.7 million to keep the Hoosier State rolling for a year with a clause that the deal could be extended through Jan. 31, 2014.
Last June INDOT said that a private company, Corridor Capital, would take over the Hoosier State on Oct. 1, but the parties involved were unable to negotiate a contract.
Iowa Pacific, which had responded to INDOT’s request for proposals in early 2014, has been discussed as providing marketing and onboard service for the Hoosier State.
It is not clear if the train will continue to operate with Amtrak equipment, but it appears likely to continue to have Amtrak operating personnel.
The Hoosier State operates on days that the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate between Indianapolis and Chicago. Both trains serve the same stations.
All of the communities served by the Hoosier State except Dyer have been helping to fund it for the past year.