Saturday, January 13, 2007

Illinois joins Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact

Good news -- on the last day of the 94th General Assembly, Governor Blagojevich signed into law a measure to join the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. The Compact has created a Commission, with staffers in Illinois (the Commission's website is here) that will help us with our federal lobbying.

Basically, one reason why the East Coast enjoys such great passenger rail service is that the region got together under the leadership of Senator Pell in the 50s and 60s to effectively advocate in Congress for money. That's why Amtrak owns most of the Boston-NYC-D.C. corridor, and why they don't have freight interference problems. The government bought and built the tracks so the service is better and now the region is more economically prosperous.

We need to do the same thing in the Midwest -- we need to spend money on tracks and trains so that the service gets better and that attracts jobs and residents to make all of us better off.

Thanks to the members of the Passenger Rail Caucus, as well as the lobbying team at the United Transportation Union for working so hard on passing this bill. And thanks to the Governor for signing it.

Here's the press release from the

January 9, 2007 Abby Ottenhoff 312/814.3158
Rebecca Rausch 217/782.7355
Gerardo Cardenas 312/814.3158
Matt Vanover 217/558.0517 (IDOT)
Mike Claffey 312/814.3957 (IDOT)
Marisa Kollias 312/814.4693 (IDOT)

Gov. Blagojevich signs legislation to help promote intercity train travel
throughout the Midwest

Illinois joins association to promote
regional intercity passenger rail service

SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation to add
Illinois to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC), a regional
association that promotes the development of intercity rail. House Bill 4344
adds Illinois to the number of Midwestern states working to promote and
advocate for passenger rail service on a federal, regional and local level. Last
year, Gov. Blagojevich doubled funding for state sponsored passenger rail in
Illinois' partnership with Amtrak, more than doubling the number of daily
round-trips on downstate routes.

"Taking the train is safe, convenient, affordable, and helps reduce congestion.
Here in Illinois we've seen double digit increases in our annual passenger rail
ridership numbers, and just this past fall we added even more state-supported
train routes to give people more options," Gov. Blagojevich said.

For Fiscal Year 2006, which ended last June, a total of 955,529 passengers
took state-sponsored trains, an increase of more than 11 percent from the
previous year, also marking the second year in a row in which all state-
sponsored routes set ridership records.

HB 4344, sponsored by State Rep. Kathleen Ryg (D-Vernon Hills) and State
Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago), allows Illinois to join the Midwest Interstate
Passenger Rail Compact, an association of member states that works to
promote improvements and long-range planning for interstate passenger rail,
as well as to coordinate interaction between Midwestern state officials and the
public and private sectors. Currently, seven other states are members of the
Compact including: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio.

"Illinois is stepping up to the plate and recognizing the importance of making
sure we have a strong network for passenger rail. It's efficient, reduces
congestion and is good for the environment, " said Rep. Ryg. "It is essential
that Midwestern states work together on a coordinated strategy as we seek to
improve interstate rail passenger service and build upon our regional
network, and I thank the Governor for his leadership in signing this bill."

"Transportation issues are a priority and will become an even greater priority
in the future for the Midwest, and especially Illinois, which is considered the
crossroads of the nation," said Sen. Munoz. "It's important that we join the
MIPRC to coordinate our efforts with our neighbors in seeking improvements
to rail passenger service that will benefit us all."

In 2006, Gov. Blagojevich and members of the Illinois General Assembly
doubled the state funding to Amtrak for passenger rail service in Illinois to $24
million, second only to California. The increase more than doubled the state-
sponsored rail service on downstate routes. The expanded service, starting
October 30, comes after news that all four of the state sponsored Amtrak
routes posted record ridership levels for state fiscal year 2006.

"Governor Blagojevich and lawmakers are providing people here in Illinois
with more opportunities to take the train, and in many communities passenger
rail is the only form of public transportation, " said IDOT Secretary Timothy W.
Martin. "Passenger rail is a vital part of our transportation system, and
working together with other Midwestern states will help it to improve in the

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