Posts Tagged ‘Joe Boardman’

Joe Boardman: Saint or Sinner?

May 26, 2018

Former Amtrak President Joseph Boardman received a lot of favorable reviews for a letter he recently wrote to public officials across the country criticizing the Amtrak board of directors and CEO Richard Anderson for what Boardman believes is a strategy designed to dismantle the carrier’s network of long-distance trains.

Typical of the applause was a column written by veteran transportation writer Don Phillips who lauded Boardman for shining a light into a dark place.

“Boardman may be shining such a bright light on Anderson that, combined with growing protests by organized rail groups, Anderson could very well fail,” Phillips wrote.

The column published in Railway Age concluded with Phillips saying he was proud of Boardman and called on rail passenger supporters to send Boardman’s remarks to members of Congress.

M.E. Singer, a principal at Marketing Rail Ltd. in Chicago, had a different take.

It isn’t that Singer disagrees with the substance of Boardman’s fear that Amtrak is maneuvering to eviscerate the long-distance trains, but rather that Boardman is being hypocritical.

Singer argued in his own Railway Age column that it was Boardman and the same board of directors under whom Anderson is serving who left Amtrak in a state of disrepair.

Singer contends that during the Boardman administration the carrier’s best managers were encouraged to take buyouts “during multiple reorganizations that only depleted vital institutional knowledge.”

Although Boardman accused Amtrak of a lack of transparency, Singer said Amtrak also worked in secrecy during the Boardman administration.

“In reality, Boardman barely provided lip service to the long-distance routes, as evidenced by the lack of any pro formas to Congress to factually detail the number of passengers turned away, and loss of revenues, due to the lack of space on those trains; and to identify the need for more equipment to expand frequencies and to meet new route opportunities,” Singer wrote.

Singer contends Amtrak’s board and top management has a “singularly focused” commitment to serve their political patrons of the Northeast Corridor at the expense of the national system.

“What apparently puzzles Boardman is how quickly his inner circle turned their loyalty to the new CEO, Richard Anderson, continuing to focus on ensuring their own survival by placating a very conflicted Board,” Singer wrote.

Neither Singer nor Phillips favors ending the long-distance passenger trains.

Phillips has long argued that the Northeast Corridor is not profitable as Amtrak and many policy makers and public opinion leaders say that it is.

Singer wants Amtrak to be redefined so that it serves all interests, including the national system.

So what should we make of Joe Boardman? Is is a saint or a sinner?

Phillips noted that when Boardman stepped down as president of Amtrak, he had nothing but negative things to say about him, but refrained from writing a column blasting Boardman.

Singer and Phillips are correct in their own way about Boardman. Singer correctly noted that under Boardman Amtrak demanded that the states served by the Southwest Chief on a segment of BNSF track in western Kansas, southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico pay for upgrading the track after the railroad said it would downgrade it to a top speed of 30 mph.

The states landed federal grants and coughed up their own funding to match money contributed by BNSF and Amtrak.

Had Amtrak not recently said it wouldn’t match the latest federal grant obtained by Colfax County, New Mexico, to continue rebuilding the route of the Chief, Boardman might not have spoken up.

Boardman probably considers it part of his legacy that he negotiated a pact with BNSF to maintain the route for 10 years if the states and Amtrak paid most of the money to rebuild it. Now that legacy is coming undone.

In short, Boardman might be less concerned with the national network than he is with his legacy even though he claimed to have told the Amtrak board that the most important trains to the passenger carrier are the long-distance trains.

The fate of the long-distance trains will be settled in Congress through a political process.

An aroused citizenry or the appearance of one will be critical in keeping all, some or most of those trains operating for now.

I’m reminded of an old saying: Your friend is your enemy; your enemy is your friend.

As a former Amtrak president, Boardman’s word will get immediate attention and carry some weight.

Boardman may not have been the best friend of long-distance during his time at Amtrak, but he might turn out to be a good friend of those trains right now.

 

Boardman Sees Hope For Getting New Equipment to Bolster Amtrak’s Aging Long-Distance Fleet

December 11, 2015

Although he didn’t make any promises, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman sees a glimmer of hope that the railroad’s aging Amfleet and Superliner equipment might be replaced or at least supplemented.

In an interview with Trains magazine held a week before he announced that he will retire from Amtrak in September 2016, Boardman said he didn’t expect any difference in the annual appropriations but that the transportation legislation authorizes money for the “Gateway” Hudson River tunnel project might free up funds that can be used to buy equipment for long-distance trains.

Boardman said that means “that there’s going to be capital money that needs to be made available for our national system and to replace and improve the equipment we have out there.”

Much of Amtrak’s current fleet was built in the 1970s or 1980s and is now older than the streamliner era equipment that it inherited when it began operations in 1971.

In the meantime, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles continues to build new Viewliner equipment at its plant in Elmira, New York.

“We’re really working hard to make sure we get the CAF deliveries for long-distance equipment,” Boardman said. “We have all the baggage cars now, the dining cars are in the climate chamber, and then we move on to (the baggage dorms and sleepers).”

Boardman doesn’t expect to see equipment arrive for the Northeast Corridor during his remaining time with Amtrak although he does expect to announce the details about an equipment order within the next three months.

“I don’t expect to be here when they get here, but I want to make sure they get ordered and that gets done before I leave,” he said.

At present, Amtrak doesn’t have “a final figure from the vendor and we don’t yet have approval on a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan but we are doing all the due diligence that we are supposed to do to make that happen.”

During Boardman’s watch, Amtrak began taking delivery of new Siemens electric locomotives with 56 of the 70 ordered having been delivered thus far.

Boardman said he wants to get Amtrak’s Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System version of positive train control installed on all sections of the Northeast Corridor by the end of 2015.

When he steps down next year, Boardman will have served as Amtrak’s president for eight years, which will be the second-longest tenure among Amtrak presidents. Only W. Graham Claytor Jr. at 11 years served in the post longer.

The announcement that Boardman would retire came in a letter to employees that was sent a month after the Amtrak board of directors had voted to extend Boardman’s tenure for another two years.

“When I look back at this time I see so many accomplishments and so many changes we made to make America’s Railroad a stronger, safer and a more important part of our nation’s transportation system,” Boardman said.

“Our debt is lower, our revenues are up, our ridership is up, our labor efficiencies have improved. There’s no question that we’ve got more to do — I think we’re more incremental (recently) because we have so many things to move forward, like Americans with Disabilities Act improvements and implementation of all of the ideas and concepts that came out of the PRIIA legislation. I think we’ve gotten a lot done.”

Boardman to Retire as Amtrak Chief in 2016

December 9, 2015

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman told the railroad’s employees on Wednesday in a letter that he plans to retire in September 2016.

Boardman wrote in the letter that he informed Amtrak’s board of directors of his decision earlier this week after serving eight years as the railroad’s chief executive officer.

“When I look back at this time I see so many accomplishments and so many changes we made to make America’s Railroad a stronger, safer and a more important part of our nation’s transportation system,” Boardman said in the letter.

Boardman Decries ‘Zero’ Funding of Rail Transportation Infrastructure Projects

October 27, 2015

Amtrak President Joe Boardman has come face to face with a reality that all of his predecessors have faced. Funding for Amtrak is always year to year and that makes long-term planning difficult.

As if that isn’t bad enough, Boardman said the nation faces billions of dollars in infrastructure repairs but has made no progress toward addressing those.

Chief among those infrastructure needs is a plan to resolve railroad congestion in Chicago that delays Amtrak and freight trains alike.

Boardman appeared on Monday on a panel at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Monday to stump for a plan that Amtrak presented recently to fund the $2.6 billion Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program.

Boardman lamented that Amtrak’s annual funding struggles has made multi-year projects exceedingly difficult to plan and carry out.

Also appearing on the panel were Amtrak board member Thomas Carper, former U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn ( R-New York) and Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center President Howard Lerner.

The panel noted that 29 CREATE projects have been built at a cost of $1 billion.

Boardman said it has been a long time since national leaders approved major projects for the common good.

He said the Chicago projects remain unfunded along with the Gateway project to rebuild century-old infrastructure and increase capacity between New York City and New Jersey.

Boardman said at stake is the day-in, day-out reliability of the rail network as well as the mobility needs of students, residents of remote areas and the physically disadvantaged.

As an example of why operation of the rail system needs to be more reliable, Boardman said that the on-time performance of state-supported Amtrak trains is around 55 percent while that of long-distance trains is below 50 percent.

Carper noted that completion of the Englewood Flyover in Chicago eliminated about six train delays per hour at the busiest times.

That $130 million project elevated Metra’s Rock Island District over the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. The latter is used by 14 Amtrak trains per day.

Carper said that United Parcel Service loses $1 million for every minute of delay to its shipments and that $7 to $9 billion of the nation’s annual gross domestic product is dependent on the flow of freight through Chicago.

Lerner said the next priorities for Chicago should be the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project and the Grand Crossing Project.

He also said that Amtrak, Metra and freight railroads need to better coordinate dispatching and that the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program must be reformed to make its loans easier to obtain.

However, funding for the rest of CREATE projects as well as the $20 billion Gateway project has yet to be approved.

Lerner said that there are no substitutes for a long-term federal funding program for passenger rail.

INDOT Open to Continuing the Hoosier State

March 12, 2015

The Hoosier State may not be doomed after all. An Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman told Trains magazine that the state would consider continuing its support of the Chicago-Indianapolis train provided that Indiana gets relief from a Federal Railroad Administration decree that in supporting the train the state is a new railroad.

“The state would consider another short-term extension of the existing service if the FRA changed its position,” INDOT spokesman Will Winfield told the magazine. “The state and local communities are working together to get the maximum value for the taxpayer dollars being invested.” INDOT had been negotiating with Amtrak to continue operating the train and with Iowa Pacific Holdings to provide equipment and marketing support.

Then last week INDOT said that Hoosier State would makes its last trips on April 1, citing what INDOT termed the imposition of “burdensome” FRA regulations.

INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning has written to Federal DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx to protest the FRA regulations.

In his letter, Browing said the insistence by the FRA that INDOT serve as the principal entity of record for the purposes of ensuring compliance with federal railroad safety requirements had prompted Indiana’s termination notice for the quad-weekly Hoosier State.

“INDOT cannot agree to become a railroad or a railroad carrier as that would require a significantly higher commitment of resources, the assumption of additional liability, and uncertainty over employment practices,” Browning wrote.

Trains noted that Foxx was mayor of Charlotte, N.C., when the FRA tried to impose similar regulations on the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which funds Amtrak service between Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C. After North Carolina threatened to sue, the FRA backed off.

“We are experiencing the same regulatory impediments that the North Carolina Department of Transportation faced in 2008 in its discussions with the FRA,” Browning wrote to Foxx. “As you may recall, the FRA insisted that NCDOT serve as the railroad carrier. That matter was ultimately resolved when NCDOT contested that FRA determination.”

Some observers have described the FRA’s latest ploy to make Indiana a “railroad” because it funds Amtrak service as the opening act in decreeing that all states that fund rail passenger service are “railroads.”

In response to INDOT’s Hoosier State termination notice, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman issued a statement saying that continued operation of the Hoosier State can be done on a month by month basis.

Wingfield told Trains that Amtrak, FRA, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials made an initial inspection of Iowa Pacific equipment on Jan. 27 in Chicago with additional inspections scheduled this month.

Indiana’s fight with the FRA has also begun to attract support from officials with other agencies that fund rail passenger service. Among them is Patricia Quinn, chair of the States for Passenger Rail Coalition Inc., and Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority,  sponsors Amtrak’s Downeaster between Boston and Maine

“It is a sad day when the federal agency which administers federal funding for Amtrak, and who has played such a critical role in providing grants to states to develop and improve intercity passenger rail services, also is determined to require states and intercity service sponsors who contract with Amtrak to become railroads,” Quinn said in a statement. “We trust that this conflict between federal and state governments can be worked out.”

 

Playing for Time in the Hoosier State Saga

October 16, 2014

One of the more useful pieces of wisdom that I learned in graduate school is that when evaluating a given situation look for what it not there. Researchers get so focused on what they observe that they forget to consider what they are not seeing.

And so it is in the ongoing soap opera known as Saving the Hoosier State.

Amtrak President Joe Boardman insisted last week that there has been a lot of misinformation and misunderstandings surrounding the Hoosier State saga.

He’s right about that, although some of that has come from Amtrak and Boardman himself.

Of late, the focus has shifted to whether Corridor Capital, the Chicago-based firm that the Indiana Department of Transportation had designated to operate the Hoosier State is up to the task.

Corridor Capital was supposed to take over the Hoosier State on Oct. 1, but it didn’t have contracts signed to do that. So Amtrak agreed to continue operating the train through Jan. 31.

Boardman then traveled through Indiana aboard a special train to remind everyone of that and to profess that Amtrak really, really wants to operate the Hoosier State.

He even said that Amtrak would upgrade service on the train by providing Wi-Fi and business class service.

That, though, amounts to nothing more than adding an unstaffed café car and placing complimentary coffee, water bottles and pastries on the counter. Amtrak could have done that at any time, but chose not to do so. What does that say about how Amtrak views the Hoosier State?

A week later, Boardman was at it again, hinting that Corridor Capital might not be able to meet all of the various federal regulations pertaining to public health and safety matters.

Those may be legitimate issues, but are red herrings. Corridor Capital may find that adhering to federal regulations may be more complicated than it expected, but in the end they will likely get it done.

Whether Corridor Capital would be able to successfully operate a passenger train remains to be seen.

They’ve been suggesting a number of changes that will not necessarily be easy to implement, such as a faster schedule and more frequent service.

We’ll never know for sure until it gets a chance to show if it can do it. But will it? Not if Joe Boardman has his way.

After reading Boardman’s op-ed piece in the Lafayette Journal & Courier, I couldn’t help but think that what we are really seeing is the first round of a public relations campaign designed to deflect blame away from Amtrak if the Hoosier State folds early next year.

Boardman wants Corridor Capital to fail in order to forestall the possibility of other states signing on with private companies that say they can operate intercity rail passenger service.

In short, Boardman wants to maintain the status quo because that protects Amtrak’s interests.

It is not a sure thing that the Hoosier State will continue operating past Jan. 31, 2015, regardless of whether the operator is Amtrak or Corridor Capital.

Who will fund the Hoosier State next year and how much that will cost remains an open question.

If the city of Indianapolis really means it that it no longer wishes to fund the Hoosier State then will the other funding partners pick up the slack?

Even if all of the funding parties agree to continue funding the Hoosier State, for how long will that continue?

What the cities along the Hoosier State route probably really want is for INDOT to pick up funding the Hoosier State. Good luck with that.

INDOT probably really wants to hand the Hoosier State over to Corridor Capital and be done with it other than writing the checks. INDOT probably fantasizes that Corridor Capital will be so successful that neither it nor any of its local government partners will have to underwrite the train’s losses.

Indiana is a politically conservative state and INDOT has, historically, shown little interest in funding and overseeing passenger trains.

It has neither the experience nor the appetite to oversee rail passenger service that its brethren in nearby Illinois and Michigan have.

The Hoosier State might have died a long time ago had it not been for the fact that Amtrak uses it to ferry equipment between Chicago and the Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis.

Sure, Amtrak could move equipment on the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal. But it is more convenient to do it on the Hoosier State because that train originates at the Grove.

Compared with the other Midwest corridor trains, the Hoosier State is an ugly step child, lacking the amenities found on those trains.

It doesn’t help that the Hoosier State is forced to endure a slow, circuitous route into Chicago that involves six railroads. That alone presents major challenges to anyone serious about developing the Chicago-Indianapolis corridor.

Neither Amtrak nor Corridor Capital will be able to do much about the Chicago-Indianapolis route.

Everyone seems to agree the route has, in theory, good potential for growth, but no one wants to spend the millions needed to develop it, particularly when it comes to finding a faster way in and out of Chicago.

You have to wonder if the Hoosier State saga is simply a game of all parties playing for time in the hopes that someone else will step forward to take control of the train, including the funding. It is the classical case of, to use a baseball expression, “I got it, you take it.”

Ideally, that would be INDOT and it still might do that. But I wouldn’t bet a business class ticket on the Hoosier State on it.

Commentary by Craig Sanders

Boardman Makes Pitch to Keep Hoosier State

October 11, 2014

Amtrak President Joe Boardman took to the editorial pages of the Lafayette, Ind., Journal & Courier this week to fire the latest salvos in the battle to operate the Hoosier State.

Ostensibly, Boardman was seeking to correct what he termed “inaccuracies and misinformation regarding Amtrak’s operation of the Hoosier State train service under a contract with the Indiana Department of Transportation.”

Boardman said Amtrak can offer several different service models for the Hoosier State, but he called on the state of Indiana to decide what it wants and what it is able to pay for.

Whatever that might be, Boardman made a pitch that Amtrak continue to operate the Hoosier State.

“Amtrak believes it remains Indiana’s best long-term choice for safe, reliable intercity passenger rail service,” he wrote. “Amtrak brings proven expertise in delivering passenger rail service, railroad operations, safety and security, equipment maintenance and repair. We want safe and effective passenger rail service to succeed for the benefit of Indiana’s people, businesses and communities. Let’s get this done.”

Currently, Amtrak operates the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train under a contract with INDOT that will expire in late January 2015. The train is funded by INDOT and local governments along its route.

Earlier this year, INDOT said it has chosen Chicago-based Corridor Capital to operate the train. Although Corridor Capital was supposed to take over operations this month, that didn’t happen.

Instead, Amtrak agreed to operate the Hoosier State for four more months.

Trains magazine reported on Friday that Corridor Capital and INDOT have still not reached an agreement to operate the Hoosier State.

“The primary reason is that state officials failed to actively engage Amtrak in negotiations for track-access rights with the freight railroads until weeks before the new operator was to take over this fall,” the magazine reported. “With the clock ticking on a four-month Amtrak contract extension that expires Jan. 31, 2015, those discussions are finally underway.”

Boardman last week rode a special train to whistle stop along the route to make a pitch for Amtrak to continue operating the Hoosier State.

His op-ed piece in the Journal & Courier may have been the latest ploy in those efforts or it might have been part of a larger public relations campaign to deflect blame away from Amtrak if the Hoosier State is discontinued in February.

During last week’s journey, Boardman visited with various Indiana officials and also announced the rollout of food service and WiFi service aboard the Hoosier State.

The service amenity upgrades, which have since been implemented included adding a food-service car with business class seating.

However, the car does not have an attendant and business class travelers are limited to consuming complimentary beverages and pre-packaged pastries that are left on the counter for them.

“I learned a lot during the tour about community desires for this service, and I believe the community representatives gained some valuable insights into the challenges and complexities of operating a safe and efficient passenger rail service,” Boardman wrote in his op-ed piece.

Without naming it, Boardman took another shot at Corridor Capital.  “The leasing company designated as Indiana’s vendor claims to have ‘indestructible’ railcars that are ‘available now,’ but it was unable to meet the Oct. 1 deadline to assume the service.”

A Corridor Capital spokesman told Trains that he could not reveal what passenger cars and motive power will be used. “Three parties, each with much at stake, are at the table discussing their respective roles and public disclosure of (those details) would be premature,” the spokesman said.

In its bid proposal to INDOT earlier this year, Corridor Capital said it expected to use Amtrak conductors and engineers.

But Amtrak has since insisted that it will deal only with INDOT as a primary contractor and not a subcontractor of another party.

Amtrak has also raised the issue of whether the equipment to be used by Corridor Capital would comply with Amtrak and Federal Railroad Administration standards, and, because the Hoosier State crosses state lines, Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration rules.

“Operating passenger rail service is no small task, especially for the inexperienced,” Boardman wrote. “Recently, a private operator providing trains in New Mexico lasted only four months before failing — on a route much shorter and less complicated than the Hoosier State. The complexity of the challenge along the Indianapolis-Chicago route is much greater. Amtrak stands ready to work with INDOT and the communities to prevent a similar outcome with the Hoosier State.”

Trains also reported that Herzog Transit Services, which also bid to operate the Hoosier State, told INDOT in a June 6 letter that “the right of access … must belong to the state of Indiana, not a third party operator” as required by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

However, INDOT officials have been expecting that Corridor Capital would be responsible for obtaining access to railroads over which the Hoosier State operates as well ensuring that it was in compliance with FRA operating and safety regulations.

The Hoosier State uses six railroads to travel between Indianapolis Union Station and Chicago Union Station.

Amtrak Pledges to Upgrade the Hoosier State

October 2, 2014

In a bid to retain operation of the Hoosier State, Amtrak announced Wednesday that it would  upgrade the Chicago-Indianapolis train by offering Wi-Fi service, light food and beverages, and business class seating.

The announcement came during a whistle-stop tour of the route by Amtrak President Joe Boardman, who said that the service upgrades were part of a strategy for Amtrak to “demonstrate its capabilities.”

Last June, the Indiana Department of Transportation reached an agreement with Chicago-based Corridor Capital to operate the Hoosier State beginning Oct. 1.

However, Corridor Capital asked for more time to make the transition and Amtrak agreed to continue operating the Hoosier State through Jan. 31, 2015. Boardman predicted that Corridor Capital will not be ready to take over the Hoosier State on Jan. 31, either.

He said Corridor Capital has never run an intercity passenger route and didn’t anticipate all the regulatory hurdles it must cross with agencies as diverse as the Federal Railroad Administration and the Food and Drug Administration.

“They did not understand what they did not understand,” Boardman said.

Corridor Capital bid $2.9 million a year to operate the Hoosier State and blamed Amtrak intransigence for the delays in Corridor Capital taking over the train.

The firm had planned all along to use Amtrak employees to operate the Hoosier State. Chairman Jim Coston said Amtrak has been uncooperative in setting up the transition.

“That’s what the whole delay is about,” Coston said. “They didn’t participate in the (bidding) and were caught flat-footed. Now they are acting surprised about something that was approved months ago.”

Corridor Capital would replace the Amtrak coaches with refurbished cars, increase the number of frequencies to three daily roundtrips and cut the travel time and rearrange the schedule.

“Since the procurement-award announcement in June, INDOT has been requesting a meeting with Amtrak to formalize and price the INDOT/Corridor plan,” Coston said in an email to the Indianapolis Business Journal. “A conference call finally took place Friday morning.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Amtrak will only sign a contract with INDOT regarding operating the Hoosier State, not with a third-party such as Corridor Capital.

Boardman said Amtrak isn’t willing to work as a subcontractor to Corridor, as the firm contemplated in its bid. “On what basis would they propose that without talking to Amtrak?” he said.

Amtrak will work with the state of Indiana, Boardman said. “The state has standing. They don’t.”

Coston said a letter of intent between INDOT and Corridor is being drafted. “It is a great line, but Amtrak has ignored it,” Coston said. “I rode it, and the seats were so uncomfortable you had to squirm and keep moving the whole ride. Plus, there wasn’t a bottle of water on board.”

The Hoosier State operates four days a week on the days that the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate. Both trains have intermediate stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. The trip takes about five hours and ridership averages about 80 passengers per trip.

INDOT along with Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Rensselaer, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Beach Grove collectively pay Amtrak $244,916 per month to operate the Hoosier State.

Whether Amtrak or Corridor Capital operate the train after next January may be a moot point because the City of Indianapolis earlier indicated that it would no longer participate in funding the train after then. If the state and other communities do not increase their share of the funding, the Hoosier State might be discontinued.

Amtrak has more than 550 employees in Indianapolis and Beech Grove who maintain and overhaul rail equipment, and more than 225 other Amtrak employees also live in Indiana.

During the stop at Lafayette, Boardman took another shot at Corridor Capital.

“We’re here the day they were supposed to start operating the service, and they’re not,” he said said. “I decided to go out and start talking to people … to say it’s important we continue this service.”

A small firm founded by attorney and rail advocate Coston, Corridor calls itself a rail “developer” that coordinates the service components and rolling stock in exchange for a management fee. Corridor has experience in equipment financing, but has yet to operate a rail line. It also sought to entice the Michigan Department of Transportation to select it to oversee Amtrak trains in that state. Corridor’s bid to INDOT was to have Amtrak continue providing crews to operate the Hoosier State while Corridor arranged to lease refurbished rolling stock. Corridor would subcontract with other firms for equipment maintenance, ticketing and marketing.

Amtrak didn’t participate in INDOT’s bidding process in the spring, but submitted a document expressing interest in renewing the service for another year. Amtrak spokesman Magliari said the renewal would be subject to negotiations over price and service details. He declined to release a copy of Amtrak’s proposal to INDOT. Corridor’s bid of $2.8 million bested the base bid of $2.3 million made by Iowa Pacific Holdings. INDOT described the procurement process to hiring a consultant, so it wasn’t required to choose the lowest-cost bidder. Iowa Pacific also proposed using Amtrak crews although it said it could provide its own crews if needed.

Both Capital Corridor and Iowa Pacific saw the potential for increased patronage if operating delays in the Chicago metropolitan area could be eliminated and more frequent service added. Iowa Pacific’s bid projected that the state’s subsidy would drop to $1.4 million, or $10.06 per passenger, if the Hoosier State provided daily service. Iowa Pacific anticipated that Amtrak would not cooperate. “It would be best if INDOT, [Iowa Pacific], and Amtrak can all agree on an innovative agreement that utilizes the best of what Amtrak brings to the service, as well as the best of what IPH brings to the service,” Iowa Pacific wrote in its bid. “Admittedly, this is challenging, because Amtrak has worked hard to continue providing all the same services it provides today,” while setting costs as provided under the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act. “The question is whether Amtrak can step from the past to the future and work collaboratively with third parties such as IPH.” Aside from the wrangling over who would operate the Hoosier State another battle over who will fund it will also play out.

State Rep. Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette, said he will introduce a bill in the 2015 Indiana General Assembly that would shift the local funding requirement back to the state.

“It is not fair for the locals, in order to save something that is a state asset, to have to pay,” Truitt said. “I’ve not seen any local road project done this way.”

Truitt said he will meet before the session with Gov. Mike Pence to discuss the Hoosier State and the proposed legislation.

When asked whether state leaders and INDOT are receptive to taking on the entire cost of operating the Hoosier State, Truitt said he is making progress.

“Why wouldn’t we support all different types of modalities?” Truitt said. “We can support bikes, cars, trains, buses and airports. We need all of them.”

Last October through February, 12,328 people got on and off the Hoosier State in Chicago; Indianapolis saw 6,321 riders, and Lafayette saw 5,152, according to data INDOT supplied to the bidders.

Ridership was down throughout the line, which also passes through Crawfordsville, Rensselaer and Dyer. The harsh winter could have been a factor.

During the stop in Crawfordsville, Amtrak’s Boardman expressed optimism about Amtrak’s future in Indiana.

“No matter what it looks like, Amtrak will continue to serve Indiana on the Cardinal,” he said. “But, we would like to do it on the Hoosier State, too.”