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Group pushes for federal money to boost rail travel

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The mayors of several central Indiana communities are interested in federal government grants that would establish new rail service and repair existing infrastructure.

Another group, the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, is also pushing for grants.

“To be able to say, ‘Hey, I’d like to go see a Cubs game and I don’t want to have the stress of flying or driving I-65,’” said Tod Bassler, spokesperson for the alliance

The mayors of Beech Grove, Columbus, Crawfordsville, Greenwood and Rensselaer are interested in federal matching dollars to commission a study on repairing decaying tracks that force trains to move slower than normal.

“To increase the speed capability of any train between Indianapolis and Dyer, Indiana, from the current maximum of 59 mph to 79 mph,” Bassler said.

The alliance members hope some of the grant money could be used to increase the frequency of rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago, and establish new service between Fort Wayne and Columbus, Ohio.

“Another project would be to restore passenger service between Louisville (Kentucky) and Indianapolis, and points beyond,” Bassler said.

Bassler envisions a network similar to the high-speed Brightline train that runs up the Florida East Coast, a service that could benefit Indiana.

“It has been proven in many places that transit-oriented development is a real thing, and we’re starting to see that in Indianapolis here with the development of downtown, a lot of apartments and the Cultural Trail,” Bassler said.

It may take until October until the Federal Railroad Administration decides if these grants will be awarded, and another two to four years before these improvements are made.

This story was updated June 6, 2023, to add a city to the list of interested mayors.