April 28, 2003
SPRINGFIELD (April 3)–A joint resolution to put Illinois on record in support of a federally financed national passenger-rail system was introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives today.
Known as House Joint Resolution 30, the legislation uses the same language as the American Passenger Rail Agreement (APRA), which was drafted in Chicago last November 15 with the help of 40 state, local and national passenger-rail advocacy groups, including the UTU, represented by the Illinois Legislative Board.
Nationwide, more than 70 grass-roots advocacy groups, businesses, labor unions and units of government –including the Chicago City Council–now have endorsed the APRA, and the list continues to grow. If House Joint Resolution 30 passes the House and Senate and is signed by the Governor, Illinois will become the first state government to go on record as approving the document and calling on Congress to pass legislation to fund a national high-speed passenger-train infrastructure.
“The UTU is proud to have participated in the drafting of the APRA document, and we are proud to be working with members of the Illinois General Assembly to have it adopted as our state’s official policy on passenger-rail development,” said State Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “The APRA has immense practical value because it is the first document expressing a common, nationwide consensus on how passenger rail should be developed in the United States. Various individual groups have issued their own policy statements on passenger rail over the years, but APRA represents the first statement that virtually all groups can embrace. It gives the passenger-rail movement real strength.
“We are hopeful that adoption of APRA by Illinois will spur the other 49 state legislatures to do the same,” Szabo said.. “That would send a strong message to Congress and the administration that America is ready for modern passenger trains and expects the federal government to fund a rail infrastructure program just as it funded highways, airways and waterways.”
H..J.R. 30 has a clout-heavy list of sponsors. The measure was introduced by House Transportation Committee Chmn. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville). It is co-sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Yorkville), State Rep. David Miller (D-Dolton), who serves as Vice Chairman of the Transportation Committee; and State Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Galesburg), whose district includes the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railways’s massive Galesburg yard complex and hundreds of BNSF employees.
The Joint Resolution says “…we urge Congress and the President of the United States to fully institute the following passenger-rail components…within the upcoming reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) or Amtrak Reauthorization legislation.”
The Resolution then re-iterates the three key demands of the American Passenger Rail Agreement, including:
• Establishment of a multi-year federal capital funding program for passenger-rail infrastructure.
• Establishment of a pro-passenger-train federal policy assuring a “nationwide interconnected passenger-rail system” and designation of a federal agency to “develop, fund and oversee this policy” with state and local input.
• Full funding for Amtrak and retention of its existing national system while the new infrastructure system is under development.
If adopted, the Resolution will be presented to the President of the U.S. Senate and Speaker of the U.S. House, as well as to each member of the Illinois congressional delegation.
“If Illinois passes a Resolution embracing the APRA and 20 or 30 other states do the same, the building of a modern passenger-rail infrastructure becomes almost unstoppable,” Szabo said. “No Congress or administration can hold out long in the face of such overwhelming public and legislative demand for this superior form of intercity transportation.”