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Train Summit to Discuss Amtrak Route

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Region planners say a statewide “all aboard” is going out to draw attendance to a free Amtrak Summit, next Wednesday, August 21, in Lafayette, to discuss the pending loss of some Indiana passenger rail service.  The main focus will be the Amtrak Hoosier State Chicago to Indianapolis run, which could stop operating on October first if state funding is not secured. The Federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 requires state dollars rather than federal funding for passenger train routes of less than 750 miles.   Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) says the Indiana General Assembly’s current budget approved the Indiana Department of Transportation’s use of discretionary funds to support the Hoosier State, the department has not committed the monies. 
The Indianapolis/Chicago route, one of the busiest in the Midwest, carried 37,000 passengers in 2012. Currently both the Hoosier State and the Cardinal cover the route, together providing service seven days a week, with two local stops in Dyer, and Rensselaer, as well as Lafayette and Crawfordsville.
Registration begins with a train whistle at 8 a.m., with opening summit remarks by Indiana State Senator Brandt Hershman at 8:30 a.m., at Faith Community Center, 5526 State Road 26 East, Lafayette, Ind. The center is just east of the Interstate 65/State Road 26 interchange. Reservations are not required for the free event, but appreciated, by calling (765) 742-4044 or responding at http://tinyurl.com/ktdsc5t .
“Time is running short,” said Joseph Seaman, president and chief executive officer of Greater Lafayette Commerce, an area economic development group that is spearheading a group of numerous communities and organizations involved in hosting the summit.
“This summit will bring together interested parties so the best course of action for Indiana can be determined and actions taken,” Seaman said.  
Speakers and panelists include government, community and industry representatives. Among them are Ray Lang, Amtrak’s senior director of state and local government affairs; keynote speaker Tim Hoeffner, director of the Office of Rail, Michigan Department of Transportation, and vice chair, Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission; and Randy Truitt, 26th District State Representative.
Among the industry representatives participating in a panel discussion are Eric Angermeier, Nanshan America general manager, and Fred Lanahan, Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association. Government speakers include mayors Todd Baron, Crawfordsville; John Dennis, West Lafayette; Tony Roswarski, Lafayette; and Stephen Wood, Rensselaer. Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh and others also will present.
The Indianapolis/Chicago route, one of the busiest in the Midwest, carried 37,000 passengers in 2012. Currently both the Hoosier State and the Cardinal cover the route, together providing service seven days a week, with stops in Crawfordsville, Dyer, Lafayette and Rensselaer, Ind..
If the Hoosier State is dropped, the Cardinal will be the only train on the route, running from Indianapolis to Chicago on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, and from Chicago to Indianapolis on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
“We encourage attendance from all over the state,” Seaman said. “What happens on October 1 could impact the future of high-speed rail service, quality-of-life enhancement efforts in the state, business and employee recruitment, the tax base, and state and local economies. Whatever happens, we want it to be a proactive decision, not simply an expiration of a deadline that went unaddressed.”
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