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Hoosier State passenger rail extended through Jan. 31 as state negotiates with private vendor

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Transportation and seven local partners will keep funding passenger rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago through Jan. 31 while the state agency negotiates with a private vendor to operate the line, it said Wednesday.

INDOT and the communities of Indianapolis, Beech Grove, Crawfordsville, Rensselaer, Lafayette, West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County agreed to the four-month extension of the Hoosier Line allowed under the state's existing agreement with Amtrak, the agency said.

INDOT is negotiating with Corridor Capital LLC to improve the rail service and how it's funded. The four-month contract extension through January gives the state and the company additional time to strike a deal.

"For the Hoosier State, we are hoping to build from the experience of North Carolina's successful Piedmont service, in which the state and its private contractors worked with Amtrak to improve and grow passenger rail," Robert Zier, INDOT's director of multimodal planning and programs, said in a statement.

Corridor Capital teamed with RailPlan International to provide train inspection and maintenance services for state-supported passenger rail services in North Carolina and Maryland, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Indianapolis initially planned to pull out of the funding arrangement Oct. 1, but city public works spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson said it will continue paying $25,000 per month in federal funds under the extension.

"We want to give them time to be successful," Wilson said in a telephone interview.

INDOT and the seven local partners agreed to pay a $2.7 million subsidy to Amtrak after the passenger train agency announced it was ending funding for passenger lines shorter than 750 miles. INDOT did not reveal the cost of the extension.

The Hoosier State and Amtrak's long-distance Cardinal line combine to provide once-daily, roundtrip passenger rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago with stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer.

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