Quinn calls for more Amtrak spending by state

2013-03-09T04:01:00Z 2013-03-11T06:23:49Z Quinn calls for more Amtrak spending by stateBy KURT ERICKSON - H&R Springfield Bureau Chief Herald-Review.com

SPRINGFIELD — While other parts of government may be facing potentially drastic cuts, Gov. Pat Quinn is calling for an increase in spending on Amtrak service.

Budget documents show the Chicago Democrat has earmarked $12 million more for passenger rail service in Illinois, bringing the total spent on additional trains between Chicago and routes ending in St. Louis, Carbondale and Galesburg at $38 million.

The 46 percent increase for the fiscal year beginning July 1, however, does not mean Illinois will be getting any extra train service this year.

Rather, a 2008 federal law requires states to begin picking up a larger part of the tab for rail service. The four-year-old law calls for more state aid on train routes that are shorter than 750 miles.

Other states facing higher tabs include New York, Michigan and California.

Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the Quinn administration, said the final amount owed to the feds could be lower.

“We are in the midst of serious negotiations with Amtrak on what these increases will be, and thus have no final numbers yet,” Claffey said.

The talks come as Quinn is in the midst of launching faster train service on the route between Chicago and St. Louis that includes stops in Dwight, Pontiac, Normal and Lincoln.

Passenger trains also are scheduled to begin rolling between Chicago and the Quad-Cities in the fall of 2015. And, construction is expected to begin later this year on a $60 million project for a new Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque passenger rail corridor.

Illinois also has received a federal grant totaling $268 million to fund new bilevel, high-speed passenger rail cars. The new cars are not slated to go into service until 2015.

Ridership on the current routes has seen a steady uptick in recent years. Overall Amtrak ridership in Illinois has jumped 85 percent since 2006, with most of the growth coming along the Chicago-to-St. Louis corridor.

kurt.erickson@lee.net|(217) 782-4043

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