May 8, 2003

SPRINGFIELD (May 15)–The Illinois Senate today unanimously passed a House Joint Resolution urging Congress and the administration to get busy funding a nationwide passenger-rail infrastructure and to keep Amtrak fully funded and operating while the system is being built.

Known as House Joint Resolution 30, the measure passed the Illinois House unanimously a week ago.

“As soon as the Resolution is signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate it will be hand-carried to Washington and personally delivered to members of the Illinois congressional delegation,” said UTU Ass’t. Illinois Legislative Director John Burner.

“John did a terrific job managing the movement of this Resolution through the two chambers of the General Assembly in timely fashion,” said Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “That means it will be signed in time for me to take it to Washington next week when the Illinois High Speed Rail Working Group meets with the state’s delegation in Congress to seek federal funding for more passenger-rail infrastructure in Illinois.”

Szabo said that in addition to the Illinois delegation, the Working Group is likely to meet with U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), who chairs the Railroad Subcommittee of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

The language in HJR 30 calls upon Congress and the administration to formally embrace the three-point American Passenger Rail Agreement drafted last November in Chicago by a panel of passenger-rail advocacy groups that included the the UTU’s Illinois Legislative Board.

The Agreement’s first point asks Congress and the administration to “establish a dedicated, multi-year federal capital-funding program for intercity passenger rail patterned after the existing federal highway, airport and mass-transit programs.”

Points 2 and 3 call upon Congress and the administration to make the preservation and improvement of Amtrak a federal policy under the direction of the Federal Railroad Administration and to provide Amtrak with the funds necessary to continue its existing operations while the new infrastructure is being built.

“The unanimous passage of this joint resolution by the Illinois General Assembly is a very positive sign,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “It shows that support for passenger rail is very strong in the Heartland.

“But more important, it shows that our legislators have the sophistication to understand that passenger rail cannot succeed without the same kind of federal infrastructure funding that made our highways, airports, air-traffic control system and waterways so successful.”

Szabo said he was extremely proud that the UTU Illinois Legislative Board provided ideas and language that emerged in the Passenger Rail Agreement and the Joint Resolution.

“HJR 30 is a strong, clear, practical pro-passenger-train message that the federal government cannot misunderstand or ignore,” he said. “It has now been endorsed by nearly 80 entities, including large business corporations, city governments, professional and trade associations, labor unions and citizen-advocacy groups.

“We’re proud that the Illinois General Assembly has become the first state legislature to pass a resolution using the APRA’s language and principles,” Szabo said. “We hope that in the coming weeks and months many other states will do the same.”