Moffitt, Area Legislators Call for Study of New Rail Corridor
Springfield…With nearly ten percent more passengers hopping onto Illinois train routes this year, State Representative Don Moffitt (R-Gilson), along with a bi-partisan group of lawmakers, introduced a House Resolution this week encouraging the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to continue its efforts to study the feasibility of an east-west passenger rail corridor. The bi-partisan group of legislators say the expanded service would enhance access for students to colleges and universities throughout the state, while also increasing the number of available destinations available on our passenger rail system.
“Illinois has experienced some of the largest increases in Amtrak ridership in the entire nation,” said Moffitt. “Our Chicago to Carbondale route alone has seen the third-largest jump nationwide this year. As gas prices continue to stay high and more individuals look towards alternative travel methods, exploring the feasibility of an east-west corridor to connect communities with our institutions of higher education and other travel destinations is certainly a worthy investment.”
“Expanding affordable, effective passenger rail is a sound investment for the region,” State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) said. “Increased Amtrak ridership is the best indicator of the need for improvements and expansion of the existing rail lines.”
House Resolution 374, the Amtrak feasibility study, will analyze the ridership, capital costs and operating expenses of a new east-west passenger rail service between Moline/Rock Island, Galesburg, Peoria, Bloomington/Normal, Champaign/Urbana and Danville. The route would consist of two round-trips per day, with the tightest connectivity to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor and connection times to the Carbondale and Quincy corridors as well. The study will also include estimated costs for service facilities at either end of the corridor.
“A passenger rail corridor can help link communities, improve traffic, reduce pollution and provide efficient travel for our area students,” said Representative Pat Verschoore (D-Milan). “This rail system has the potential to draw new businesses to our area, attract tourists, put people back to work and have an overall positive impact on these communities.”
Legislators are also encouraging Amtrak to include in its proposal cost, a study of a very tightly-scheduled, self-sufficient express bus service, similar to California’s tightly-scheduled Thruway service that would meet Chicago-St. Louis trains each way at Normal, with single-ticketing so passengers can buy one ticket and check bags only once.
“This proposed route will connect multiple public and private universities in the region together on one rail line. The example of our north-south routes is exactly why we need the new east-west route. We are fortunate to have such a significant rail network in Illinois, however, a new east-west line that traverses the most heavily-populated parts of central Illinois would greatly enhance our abilities to grow the intra-state economy,” said State Sen. Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap).
Amtrak is expected to begin the east-west corridor feasibility study in the summer of 2013.