November 10, 2003
SPRINGFIELD (Nov. 10)—Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago) today introduced a resolution calling upon Congress to meet Amtrak’s full 2004 funding request of $1.8 billion and to pass legislation enabling the federal government to fund railroad track and signal improvements the way it funds highways and airports.
House Resolution 350 declared that “the State of Illinois is one of the most congested in the country” and said that the State’s air and highway infrastructures will not be able to assure mobility for a population expected to grow 9.12 percent by 2020.
“The State’s already strained transportation infrastructure cannot accommodate that population and ensuing economic growth,” the Resolution said, noting that “Passenger rail provides an efficient, safe and environmentally sound means of transportation for commuters and for business and leisure travelers.”
The Resolution further noted that all four Amtrak routes supported by State of Illinois funds—Chicago-St. Louis, Chicago-Quincy, Chicago-Carbondale and Chicago-Milwaukee—“experienced strong ridership gains in Fiscal Year 2003 despite a weakened economy and travel market.”
And the document singled out Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis main line, where Amtrak, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Association of American Railroads have invested more than $100 million in new track and signals that will permit passenger trains to operate at 110 miles per hour over a 118-mile stretch between Mazonia and Springfield.
The Resolution called on Congress to match this already invested mixture of public and private funds with a federal share, just as the federal government has long matched state expenditures for airports and highways. The Resolution said any of a number of bills currently pending in Congress, such as the National Defense Rail Act, RIDE-21, the Emergency Anti-Recession Act or the National Infrastructure Program Act could be used as a source of matching funds.
The main thing, according to the Resolution, is for Congress to provide “a dedicated source of funding to develop rail infrastructure.”
“Speaker Madigan and Gov. Blagojevich both are becoming very concerned about the continuing unavailability of federal funds for intercity rail improvements,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “Illinois has invested a substantial amount of its taxpayers’ money in the Chicago-St. Louis line. If it were a highway or an airport the federal government would match that money. Failure to develop a federal matching program for state and private rail investments is discriminatory.”
Szabo said the UTU was pleased to have helped the Speaker’s Office in the drafting of some of the language used in Resolution 350.
“We were very happy to help,” Szabo said. “Our union sees eye to eye with the Speaker and the Governor on the rail infrastructure issue. We all know we will not be able to grow the economy of Illinois or open up new jobs and business opportunities if we continue to rely solely on road and air technologies for personal mobility. Both have reached the peak of their productivity curves and need to be supplemented with strong passenger-rail resources.”
It is hoped that the Resolution will be adopted next week during the veto session.