SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — State Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, chairman of the House Transportation: Roads, Regulation and Bridges Committee invited Amtrak to discuss proposed budget cuts to the agency and how they will affect service in Illinois.
“In Alton, we understand the positive impact passenger rail service has on our community,” Beiser said. “Residents and businesses throughout the Metro East and the Greater St. Louis Area come to Alton to catch a cost-effective and convenient ride to Springfield, Bloomington and Chicago. Increased ridership and building a bigger train station has helped spur economic growth including new hotels, stores, apartments and offices.”
Beiser invited Amtrak to testify before the committee to learn more about how decreased funding will affect services. Board member Thomas Carper, speaking on behalf of Amtrak, said ridership from Alton to Chicago increased 100 percent since train frequency doubled 10 years ago. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed fiscal year 2016 budget included a $16 million cut, which Carper said would result to cuts in services to trains throughout the state.
Amtrak, like public transportation systems in the Chicago area, receives some state assistance for commuter rail services. This helps defray costs for consumers and funds investment in capital projects to maintain rail lines. Additionally, this money is used for improvements, such as the high-speed rail project from Alton to Chicago.
“Being in the center of the country, Illinois is a major hub for transportation, especially rail,” Beiser said. “Not only does investing in Amtrak help residents afford to travel across the state, but it encourages economic growth in communities with train stations. As we continue to discuss the budget for next year, it is important that we continue to fund programs that help local economies across the state.”
Amtrak President Joseph Boardman was scheduled to address the committee, but was not able to attend because of the train derailment in Philadelphia.