Durbin and Costello Denounce House Amtrak Bill: Hurts Illinois Economy
By Ellen Cannon
Speaking yesterday at the Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center in St. Louis, Missouri, SenatorDick Durbin (D-IL) was highly critical of the U.S. House of Representatives Fiscal Year 2012 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill which was passed by the THUD subcommittee. He stated that the measure which sharply cuts funding for Amtrak by 60 percent, would have a devastating impact on Midwestern transportation, employment and job creation, and any hope for economic growth and recovery.
According to Senator Durbin, who is the Assistant Majority leader in the Senate, the proposed House measure “cuts Amtrak’s operating funding by 60 percent, and includes a rider prohibiting Amtrak from suing any federal funds to help states pay for state supported routes, and provides no money for high speed intercity rail projects.”
Senator Durbin underscores the negative impact such a measure will have on employment. A 60 percent cut in Amtrak’s operating budget will force the railroad to lay off many of the more than 1,800 Illinois residents the service employs. Furthermore, the economic impact of the measure would have a very serious impact on manufacturing in Illinois. “The economic impact would also be felt by the 110 train equipment manufacturers and contractors doing business with Amtrak in Illinois as well as hotels, businesses, restaurants and other service providers that will lose millions of customers each year.”(durbin,senate.gov,10/27/11)
Senator Durbin underscored that the House bill would dismantle Amtrak service and stunt high speed rail growth for the entire Midwest region.” Speaking at a news conference in St. Louis he said, “St. Louis is one of the most important hubs in the nation’s passenger rail network and Gateway Station is the anchor of the network. Residents of the St. Louis region on both sides of the river have come to rely upon Amtrak. We need to maintain and grow passenger rail service –not dismantle it. People are demanding more train service, yet the House bill takes us in exactly the wrong direction- eliminating the service we already have.”
Recently, the Amtrak hub at Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center in St. Louis announced that the railroad reached a milestone by carrying over 30 million passengers in one fiscal year. This is the highest ridership total since Amtrak began in 1971.
The gutting of Amtrak funding would have a highly negative impact throughout the Midwest. According to Senator Durbin’s office it would “eliminate Amtrak service from Chicago to Carbondale, Milwaukee and Quincy. With Amtrak unable to provide support, Illinois would not have the funds needed to cover the shortfall and keep the routes in service. Illinois has had state supported Amtrak service since 1072 and there are now 14 round-trip trains traveling from Chicago’s Union Station to Milwaukee, Quincy, Carbondale and St. Louis moving 1.7 million passengers each year. New Amtrak service routes under development from the Quad Cities and to Rockford would also be eliminated.(durbin.senate.gov. 10/27/11) (Ellen Cannon, knotmove.com,”Durbin Sees Amtrak Funding Critical)
Rep. Jerry Costello, (D-IL) senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Railroads Subcommittee, also came out against the bill. He stated, “Our universities and students, particularly depend on Amtrak as an affordable means of transportation across the state, and high speed rail between St. Louis and Chicago will maximize these benefits. The House funding level would be devastating to Illinois and I will continue to support Senator Durbin’s efforts to increase these resources in the Senate bill.”
In contrast to the House bill Senator Durbin, who views infrastructure growth and modernization essential for Illinois’s economic future, the U.S. Senate’s FY2012 THUD Appropriation bill would maintain current funding levels for Amtrak and also includes a bipartisan amendment authored by senator Durbin that would restore $100 million for high-speed and intercity passenger rail.
According to Senator Durbin, the Senate bill which he and Rep. Costello favor, maintains “adequate funding for Amtrak’s capital and operating needs and includes $100 million for high speed and intercity rail projects. It will help sustain steps toward economic recovery for Illinois in that “for every dollar we invest in rail- from tracks and bridges to locomotives and equipment- we see $3 in economic output.”(Ellen Cannon, knotmove.com)