Amtrak

The train controls that were lacking in Philadelphia will be in place when Illinois high speed rail happens... if the state will spend the money.

David Wilson / davidwilson1949 via Flickr.com

Governor Bruce Rauner's proposed 40 percent cut in Amtrak funding drew objections from 16 university and municipal officials on Tuesday morning. 

 Schools as small as Spoon River College and as large as the University of Illinois flagship in Urbana-Champaign rely on Amtrak trains to bring their students to campus. They say the cut would reduce services and negatively affect enrollment at all downstate schools.  

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The former chairman of Amtrak told Illinois lawmakers Wednesday that service cuts are inevitable should Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed 40 percent funding cut takes effect.

Fifty-six Amtrak trains run daily in Illinois. They run from Chicago to St. Louis, to Carbondale, to Quincy and up to Milwaukee, and more travelers are riding them.

Amtrak's former chairman Thomas Carper says he can't say how many, or which of those routes will be dropped.

But he says that will happen if Illinois doesn't come through with about $42 million.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Cuts the governor is proposing for next year's budget are a concern for transportation officials.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan includes $20 million worth of cuts to Amtrak. Laura Calderon, the director of the Illinois Public Transportation Association, says that means about six million trips will be eliminated downstate.

"This impact is not just on transit. It has a much broader impact on the economy, on the schools, on the universities," she said. "It really does hit everyone."

Amtrak
Bill Dickinson / Flickr.com/skynoir

Amtrak officials say they don’t yet know which services would be affected if Illinois cuts its funding. But the rail company says it’s sure there would be some service reductions if its grant is cut by a proposed $16 million.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has suggested the state’s Amtrak operations subsidy, administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation, drop to $26 million from the current $42 million. A spokesman for Amtrak, which operates four intrastate train lines with service between Chicago and dozens of downstate cities, says the company can’t absorb a cut that steep.

Amtrak

Tim Landis and Bill Wheelhouse chat about work on high speed rail and possible funding cuts for Amtrak in Illinois.

Amanda Vinicky

Rail advocates are concerned Governor Bruce Rauner's executive order that puts a hold on non-essential state spending could be the end of the line for two projects that have been chugging along.

After long negotiations, Illinois has agreements to extend two passenger rail routes. One would to go Rockford, the other to the Quad Cities.

Little to no construction has been done on either so far, but head of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association Rick Harnish says 2015 was supposed to be the year.

Amanda Vinicky

  Amtrak ridership in Illinois has risen in recent years; it's up almost 85 percent from 2006 through last year. That trend developed after the rail service added routes. The train service could grow more in the future.

In 2006, lines branching out from Chicago that went to Carbondale, Quincy and St. Louis added trips.

Then there's the ongoing construction on tracks, that's supposed to make way for so-called "high speed rail" on line that runs through Bloomington and Springfield, and into Missouri. There's a potential for more expansion going forward.

wuis

State lawmakers are backing the creation of an east-west passenger rail corridor across Illinois.  
The Illinois House unanimously approved a non-binding resolution Monday endorsing a possible Amtrak route from the Quad Cities in the west to Danville in the east.  

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports that the route would include stops in Galesburg, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana.  
No cost estimate was discussed.  
Republican state Rep. Don Moffitt of Gilson is sponsoring the proposal.  

This week's topics include gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner's choice for his Lt. Governor running mate, the state deal with Amtrak to keep shorter-run rail lines running, and new license requirements for all-terrain-vehicles.

Springfield Gets Money For Rail Underpass

Aug 30, 2013
WUIS/Peter Gray

The federal government has awarded a $14.4 million grant for a railroad underpass in Springfield that will improve service along the emerging 110-mph Amtrak route between Chicago and St. Louis.  
Four members of Congress from Illinois announced the award Friday.  
The Carpenter Street underpass is part of work to consolidate rail traffic on a line east of downtown.  
It will eliminate three street-level crossings, improving the safety of faster rail service through the state capital. It will also keep first responders from getting stuck at crossings.  

City officials in Normal aim to resurrect their community's downtown. They've paved the way for a new children's museum and begun negotiations on a hotel and conference site for that central Illinois town, which lies in the shadow of Illinois State University. 

Now they're hoping to make it easier for people to get there. The check from the feds should help.

Amtrak’s high speed Acela Express whizzes along a stretch of track between New York and Washington, D.C., at 135 miles per hour. Passengers read or work on laptops in seats as large as those found in first class airline cabins. The train drops them off just a couple of blocks from Capitol Hill without the hassle of baggage handlers and long cab rides to and from the airport.

Suburbanites who leave Chicago by rail can expect to arrive home on time. Trains are frequent on every route. And ticket prices are lower than the cost of driving. But rail passengers who travel from Chicago to downstate destinations have no such assurances. 

Metra, the commuter rail authority that serves the Chicago region, and Amtrak, the passenger rail company that serves the nation, are comparable in some ways, of course. Both are subsidized with taxpayer dollars. They use the same tracks and share some stations.