Indiana News

Coats Seeks to Avoid Loss of Hoosier State Line Rail Service

WASHINGTON, DC (WOWO): Wednesday afternoon, Senator Dan Coats sent a letter to Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), to urge the FRA to reverse its decision to designate the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) as a “railroad carrier” with regard to the Hoosier State Line rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago.  INDOT recently notified the FRA that it would terminate the Hoosier State service, rather than assume the costs associated with a “railroad carrier” designation.
  
“The FRA should look to Amtrak for equipment upgrades and regulatory compliance, rather than forcing these obligations onto INDOT,” wrote Coats. “INDOT is not in a position to assume either the additional liability or the regulatory burdens that a designation of ‘railroad carrier’ would impose. I am concerned that, if the FRA does not relent on its determination, INDOT will have no choice but to allow the current contract to expire.”
  
Here's the entire letter:
  
March 11, 2015

Dear Ms. Feinberg,
  
I am contacting you about the recent decision by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to designate the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) as a “railroad carrier” with regard to the Hoosier State Line (HSL) rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago.   I urge the FRA to reconsider its unwarranted determination in order to avoid termination of the HSL.
  
INDOT has historically contracted with Amtrak to operate the HSL service.   Due to the HSL’s inadequate quality of service, however, INDOT proposed to contract with a third party to enhance the service and encourage additional ridership.   Amtrak continues to operate the rail cars, provide engines and crews, and operate the reservation and ticketing services.   INDOT does not function in any of these capacities.   It does not “conduct rail operations over rail infrastructure.”   Indeed, INDOT does not fit any common-sense definition of a “railroad,” so the communities along the HSL are rightly puzzled by the FRA’s decision.   Furthermore, Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act does not mandate—nor does it even provide for—the FRA to designate a state department of transportation as a “railroad carrier.”  
  
Amtrak operates the HSL, and it has heretofore functioned as the “railroad carrier.”   The FRA should allow that relationship to continue as part of a renewed contract.   The FRA should look to Amtrak for equipment upgrades and regulatory compliance, rather than forcing these obligations onto INDOT. INDOT is not in a position to assume either the additional liability or the regulatory burdens that a designation of “railroad carrier” would impose.   I am concerned that, if the FRA does not relent on its determination, INDOT will have no choice but to allow the current contract to expire.   I am confident that INDOT would much prefer to improve the HSL rather than terminate the service.   Thus, I urge FRA to reconsider its decision and seek a workable solution to this problem with all the parties involved.

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