Durbin Meets with Northern Illinois Officials to Discuss Passenger Rail to Rockford

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with several communities leaders from Winnebago, Stephenson and Boone Counties to discuss the proposed Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque Amtrak route as part of the group’s annual trip to Washington. Congressman Don Manzullo (R-IL) attended today’s meeting which included the following officials: Mayor of Rockford, Larry Morrissey; Mayor of Freeport, George Gaulrapp; and Mayor of Belvidere, Fred Brereton.


“The officials I met with today from Winnebago, Stephenson and Boone Counties did a great job of coming together to promote a unified agenda for the entire region,” said Durbin. “We have worked hard to determine an Amtrak route from Chicago to Iowa that would suit the needs of Rockford and other Northern Illinois communities. With President Obama’s $8 billion investment in passenger rail, this route is in a good position to compete for funding.”


One of the highest priorities for the region and for the group is to attract passenger rail service to the area. In May 2006, Durbin first asked the President of Amtrak for a meeting with Rockford area officials to discuss the possibility of renewing Chicago-Rockford service. This led to an Amtrak feasibility study to determine a preferred route. Final consensus on a route that runs through Belvidere was reached nearly three years later in April 2009.


“Amtrak already provides quick, cost-effective, and reliable transportation to 30 communities in the state. It is time to add communities in Northwest and North Central Illinois to that list,” noted Durbin.


Durbin also discussed his 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 – at the time, Amtrak only had the funding to make five additional rehabbed train cars available. 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. And just last month the Department of Transportation announced that $90.8 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been committed to rehabilitating train cars in the United States and returning them to service – bringing the total number of train cars Amtrak will be able to make available to eighty-one.


Additional participants in today’s meeting included: Peter Provenzano from the Winnebago Rail Authority; Winnebago County Chair, Scott Christiansen; Airport Board Chair, Mike Dunn; Winnebago County Administrator, David Peterson; and Janet Fisher from the Blackhawk Rail Commission.