RICH JAMES: State, not Dyer, should subsidize Amtrak

2013-11-13T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: State, not Dyer, should subsidize AmtrakBy Rich James nwitimes.com
November 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

I’m with you, Dyer.

Stand up and take a bow. The rest of Northwest Indiana ought to line up behind you.

When the state told Dyer it had to put up $5,000 monthly to subsidize the Amtrak train that stops in town, Dyer had the chutzpah to say no.

Big Brother, Dyer said, wasn’t going to tell the town what to do.

The state sold Dyer and a few other communities down the tracks.

Call it taxation without representation, if you will.

What the feds said was that states will have to subsidize Amtrak routes shorter than 750 miles beginning in 2014.

The route from Chicago to Indianapolis – which stops in Dyer – is 196 miles.

When the Indiana Department of Transportation agreed to the fed’s demands, it essentially sold out local communities like Dyer.

In fact, Dyer and the others will pay about half of the $2.7 million the feds are demanding from Indiana.

In addition to Dyer, the other local stop for The Hoosier State is Rensselaer, which has agreed to pay $1,500 a month.

Yeah, the state has stuck it to the locals.

Dyer already puts up the money to take care of the railroad platform and shelter.

This subsidy ought to be between the state and the feds. That is especially true in Indiana, where the state has more than $2 billion in the bank.

I’m not sure why the state has amassed such a surplus. The money ought to be supporting Hoosiers through a variety of venues – perhaps even full subsidy of passenger train service.

What I really don’t understand is why Dyer and Rensselaer and the others have to support Amtrak because it stops there.

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume not all the people who board an Amtrak train in Dyer are Dyer residents.

I’ve got a gut feeling some of those riders live in Munster, Griffith, Crown Point and even a stone’s throw across the state line in Illinois.

But apparently Munster doesn’t have to subsidize Amtrak if one of its residents boards in Dyer. So why should Dyer residents have to pay for that Munster guy?

Making Dyer pay because its residents have a shorter commute to the train makes no sense.

What makes sense is the state putting up the entire local match demanded by the feds.

Not only can the state can afford it, but Indiana also isn’t exactly at the forefront of passenger rail travel in America.

The only passenger service the state subsidizes is the South Shore.

Dyer has made a statement. Other Amtrak stops ought to do the same. And hopefully the state will correct an injustice.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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