Durbin fights to keep Quincy Amtrak route open

By:  Jim Robesky
KHQA Quincy

QUINCY, ILL. -- The transportation bill in congress could eliminate the Amtrak route between Quincy and Chicago.

U-S Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois was in Quincy today to discuss the future of Amtrak in Quincy. A funding bill in congress would eliminate funding for state routes across the country. That includes the Quincy Amtrak route.

Durbin says this would be disastrous for western Illinois. “The House of Representatives spending proposal is devastating to Illinois Amtrak. By slashing Amtrak’s operating budget by more than half and prohibiting Amtrak from helping fund state-supported routes, their bill would deliver a death blow to passenger rail service in Quincy and hundreds of other towns across Illinois and the nation,” Durbin said.

Durbin heard from community stakeholders at Quincy University Thursday. Durbin Heard from Quincy Mayor John Spring; Dr. Robert Gervasi, President, Quincy University; Tom Carper, Chairman of the Board, Amtrak; Amy Looten, Executive Director, Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce; Lori Tuttle, Public Relations & Marketing Manager, Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; a representative from Great River Economic Development Foundation; Bob Guy, State Director, United Transportation Union; and Tom Oakley, publisher of the Quincy Herald-Whig and longtime advocate of regional economic development and transportation infrastructure.

Durbin explained to the group that the funding bill for the 2012 fiscal year released last week by the House Transportation Appropriation Subcommittee prohibits Amtrak from helping states pay for state-sponsored routes, which will effectively eliminate all state-supported Amtrak service across the nation, including the route from Chicago to Quincy. Amtrak uses approximately $186 million of its annual operating budget to help states like Illinois run short-distance trains, $6.5 million for the Chicago-Quincy route alone. If the House Republicans’ bill becomes law, Illinois would be unable to fill the funding gap, and would be forced to eliminate those services, which include the Chicago – St. Louis, Chicago – Quincy, Chicago – Carbondale, and Chicago – Milwaukee routes.

“The House has developed a habit of proposing and passing legislation that is unreasonable and dangerous to our economy and then relying on the Senate to clean it up. We need to cut spending, but we need to do so in a responsible manner. I intend to push back and fight for the federal funding I believe pays dividends in communities across Illinois, just as I did when the House proposed and passed HR 1 earlier this year. But, I can’t do it alone. These threats should not be dismissed. This is a serious proposal from the House and it needs to be taken seriously by the communities across the nation that will be affected. When we faced drastic cuts to passenger rail service many years ago, Quincy and its neighboring communities united in support of Amtrak. It’s time to do so again,” said Durbin.