Durbin Meets with Community Stakeholders to Discuss Economic Impact of Amtrak Service to Western Illinois
Encourages Community to Rally Against House of Representatives Proposal to Slash Rail Funding and Eliminate Quincy to Chicago Amtrak Service
[QUINCY, IL] – Rail service throughout Illinois – including the route between Chicago and Quincy – is at serious risk of being eliminated if the transportation spending bill proposed by House Republicans becomes law, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today.
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 legislation also cuts operating assistance to Amtrak by 60 percent. This slash in funding would result in at least 1,500 Amtrak employees losing their jobs, and would likely end many of Amtrak’s long distance trains.
“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.
“Amtrak service is a valued asset in this community. It helps spur economic development and tourism and gives residents an alternative to driving. The service is more popular and more reliable than ever. Now is not the time to shut down the rail line and board up the station,” Durbin said.
Since Illinois added an additional train to service the Chicago – Quincy route in 2007, ridership along the line has increased by 32 percent. In 2010, the Quincy rail station saw 46,279 boardings and deboardings for Amtrak service. Comparatively, the airport saw 15,257. This year, the route has served a total of nearly 234,000 riders, nearing record levels. The Chicago – Quincy route has consistently been the most on-time train in Illinois, and customer satisfaction across the nation has risen to above 80 percent.
“I’m a big believer in the long-term benefits of transportation infrastructure. We’ve seen investments made 30 years ago pay dividends in Quincy. Amtrak is no exception. That’s one of many reasons I think the House proposal is short-sighted and harmful. While other countries are looking to the future and investing in passenger rail, the House proposes to take us back several decades,” said Durbin.
“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.
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