Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance
The start of Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance (IPRA) was prompted by two events. Our founding officer, Dennis Hodges, spent four weeks riding the trains of Europe in 1990 and found them to be a very efficient and affordable mode of travel. In 1992 with this experience in mind, and with the cooperation of the Northwest Indiana World Trade Council and the Hammond Chamber of Commerce, he organized a luncheon meeting during which high speed rail was the topic. Over 300 persons attended the event and were quite impressed by the concept. Shortly after, two officials from the City of Gary Economic Development Department, Joseph Frierson and Gwendolyn Adams, joined with Dennis Hodges to form what was originally called the Indiana High Speed Rail Association (INHSRA), which was incorporated in 1994 as an Indiana not-for-profit corporation.
The group met monthly for a time to find definition and determine its purpose, and each meeting was covered by the local media and received wide-spread publicity. The organization grew in numbers to 225 members and also began to see some successes. In 1997, then Governor Frank O'Bannon said he would support a bill before the Indiana General Assembly that called for $10 million to study the project in this state. Unfortunately, he later withdrew that support.
In 1999, the INHSRA noticed that the route alignment from Chicago to Indianapolis proposed by the newly organized Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI), a collaboration of state departments of transportation, went through Peotone, Illinois. With help from the MWRRI consultant and the Federal Railroad Administration, the association was successful in changing that route alignment to go through Northwest Indiana, making its first stop at the Gary Chicago International Airport before continuing on to Lafayette and Indianapolis.
Also that same year, the INHSRA met with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to propose that the FRA designate certain routes in Indiana as part of the national federal high speed rail system. The result is that the Indiana portion of those designated Midwest Regional Rail System corridors now includes some 630 route miles in the State of Indiana. Indiana now has more miles of federally designated high speed rail corridors than any other state in the Midwest.
On the foundation of these successes, in 1999 the INHSRA launched the first of its annual Golden Spike Seminars: In support of the Midwest Regional Rail System. These seminars represent the longest continuous discussion forum on high speed rail in the United States.
The formation of a sister organization in Indiana could also be seen as an outgrowth of the work of the INHSRA. In 2009, an association board member from Fort Wayne formed the Northeastern Indiana Passenger Rail Association, which was organized to return passenger rail to the Fort Wayne market.
In spite of economic downturns and a loss of public and political interest in high speed rail in Indiana, the INHSRA has stayed the course. Throughout 2011 the INHSRA worked to commission a comprehensive business plan and economic impact study that will give Indiana elected officials and legislators, as well as other interested parties throughout the state, an objective document that provides credible data and conclusions regarding the business case for making this investment.
In 2014, INHSRA chose to replace the "Indiana High Speed Rail Association" name, believing Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance (IPRA) to be a more appropriate title to reflect the group's mission.
IPRA is governed by a 22-member board of directors, which represents a cross section of private and public interests in Indiana, and it is among America's strongest advocates for 21st century passenger rail projects, and more particularly, for the Midwest Regional Rail System.
High speed rail enthusiasts may be interested to know that there was a predecessor organization in Indiana called the Indiana Association of Railroad Passengers (INDARP) which went out of existence at about the same time that the IPRA was started. The group published a newsletter and held quarterly meetings at railroad sites throughout the state (Beech Grove, Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District shops in Michigan City, Lafayette Amtrak station, and Greenwood station, for example). The group was loosely affiliated with the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). Both INDARP and NARP focused efforts on advocating for improvement of existing service on Amtrak. One legacy of INDARP was getting Amtrak "trailblazer" signs put up in several cities (in cooperation with local police and traffic departments). Amtrak provided these "trailblazer" signs, which show motorists directions to an Amtrak station. For example, Lafayette-West Lafayette has nearly 30 of those signs - most of them still in good repair.
View some of the INDARP newsletters in this archive!