Durbin Commends Amtrak Decision to Commit $80 Million in Recovery Act Funding to Illinois Rail

Additional $90.8 million in funding committed to rehabilitating train cars

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today commended Amtrak’s decision to commit $80 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to Illinois to modernize Amtrak's repair shops and improve accessibility and security at Amtrak stations and facilities in the state. Earlier today, Amtrak announced the recipients of $1.3 billion in Recovery Act funding for rail projects nationwide. The announcement also includes $90.8 million to rehabilitate train cars and return them to service.


“Last week, I met with Chairman Tom Carper, Governor Quinn and other state leaders to formulate a plan to maximize the funding Illinois rail would receive in the Recovery Act and achieve our goal of creating a high-speed rail corridor from Chicago to St. Louis in the next 5 years,” said Durbin. “Today’s funding will help us meet that goal. But more than that, this funding will create jobs in local communities along all Illinois routes and help Amtrak meet the increasing demand for an efficient, cost-effective and reliable alternative mode of travel.”


On March 9, 2009, Durbin met with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, the Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors, Tom Carper, and state leaders to discuss Illinois’ commitment to fighting for and winning the federal dollars needed to make high-speed rail in Illinois a reality, pointing to the Chicago to St. Louis line as the state’s premier route and top priority. During the meeting, Illinois leaders also discussed the efforts to extend new service from Chicago to Rockford and the Quad Cities.


Additionally, $90.8 million in funding has been committed to rehabilitating train cars in the United States and returning them to service. Currently, Amtrak is storing train cars at their maintenance facilities in Delaware and Indiana that could be rehabilitated for use on these routes that would provide enormous benefits to businesses, travelers and communities.


“The most immediate obstacle in the way of expanding Amtrak service is the lack of passenger rail train cars and equipment,” said Durbin. “Trains rehabilitated with today’s funding could easily be used on new routes around the country like Chicago to Rockford and the Quad Cities. I will work to see that today’s investment is only the beginning of a long-term commitment to creating a first class high-speed rail system rooted in major metropolitan areas like Chicago.”


Durbin has spearheaded an effort in Illinois and in Congress to repair Amtrak’s aging fleet of passenger cars, bring rehabilitated cars to Illinois and revive the train car industry in the United States. In May 2008, he led a bipartisan group of Senators in requesting that Amtrak increase the number of train cars available for use on new routes in Illinois. In July, Durbin introduced a bill – the Train CARS Act – that proposed a package of financing options to bring our existing train cars into a state of good repair and lay the groundwork for the next generation of trains built in America.


Today’s funding is part of the $1.3 billion included in the Recovery Act for Amtrak. Of that funding, Congress provided that $450 million be used for capital grants for security improvements, including life-safety improvements at Amtrak facilities. The Recovery Act also provided that no more than 60% of the funding could be used for capital improvements on the Northeast Corridor.