Illinois lawmakers seek study for future east-west passenger rail development

2013-05-23T22:27:00Z 2013-05-24T00:15:07Z Illinois lawmakers seek study for future east-west passenger rail developmentHannah Douglas Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
May 23, 2013 10:27 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | Lawmakers are signaling for more statewide passenger train service by showing support for the potential creation of an east-west rail corridor.

The discussion comes alongside a request by the Illinois Department of Transportation that Amtrak conduct a study to look into the costs and demands to see if a passenger line is feasible.

The line could one day run from the Quad Cities to Danville, including stops in Galesburg, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana. It also could have additional connections from existing lines to Carbondale and Quincy corridors.

House sponsor state Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, said the route could begin as buses and eventually move to passenger train routes on existing freight lines.

“This doesn’t compete with the other corridors,” Moffitt said. “It enhances because it gives you more options for connecting and going different places.”

He said estimated costs were not currently available for the plan.

Supporters said this could create more direct travel for students, by connecting 14 colleges and universities, and could also attract new students.

“This is going to be gateway for kids that may not have looked at these communities before,” said state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D- Hillsdale, who has schools such as Augustana College and the Quad Cities campus of Western Illinois University near his district.

“A passenger rail corridor can help link communities, improve traffic, reduce pollution and provide efficient travel for our area students,” state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D- Milan said in a prepared statement.

Derrick James, director of government affairs with Amtrak, said approximately 25 percent of Illinois riders are students.

“College ridership is one of the key drivers of our growth in the Midwest, actually across the entire United States,” James said.

Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association said the line’s creation could further enhance high-speed rail development.

“This addition and the public’s utilization of it will help to lay the solid foundation for future modernization, especially for the full implementation of high-speed rail between Chicago and St. Louis and other major Midwest destinations,” Harnish said in a prepared statement.

Amtrak plans to begin the study this summer.

The legislation is House Resolution 374 and Senate Resolution 329.

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