INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s rail lines could see expansion in the future, as a bill to explore passenger rail growth will be heard this week on the state Senate floor.
Senate Bill 13 creates a select commission on passenger rail consisting of representatives from the Indiana Department of Transportation, rail advocacy organizations, the Federal Railroad Administration and the General Assembly.
The commission would look for ways to expand Indiana’s rail system and educate local governments and the public about the advantages of passenger rail service.
Steven Coxhead points out many Hoosiers need a car to get across Indiana, and he believes that needs to change.
“Frankly, internal transportation in Indiana is actually very poor,” Coxhead said.
As president of the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, Coxhead has long advocated for expanded passenger rail in the Hoosier State.
One of the goals behind Senate Bill 13 is to ensure Indiana uses the federal funding that is available to increase the number of trains running through the Hoosier State, Coxhead said.
“Economies tend to grow when transportation is easier,” Coxhead said.
“We would like to get passenger rail service coming to Fort Wayne,” said State Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn), the author of Senate Bill 13. “We don’t have it at all in Fort Wayne.”
Kruse said one of his goals is to bring back more direct trains between Indianapolis and Chicago. But it doesn’t stop there.
“And then we’d like to get connected to Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Detroit,” Kruse said.
Kruse worked with the Indiana Department of Transportation to secure its support.
Scott Manning, deputy chief of staff for INDOT, said his department wants to make sure all state officials are on the same page about which potential passenger lines get priority.
“The timing of it was particularly important given the passage of the federal infrastructure bill late last year, which does include increased federal funding for passenger rail,” Manning said.
The bill passed the Senate homeland security and transportation committee on a 5-3 vote, with some Republican state senators raising concerns over who would lobby for funding down the line.
State Sen. Kruse said he still feels confident about the bill’s chances of moving forward.
“I just think that [a] passenger rail alternative is healthy for our society, for our people,” Kruse said.
We’ve reached out to the state senators who voted against the bill in committee to learn more about their concerns. We’re still waiting to hear back.