Metro-East News

Amtrak: Cut in state subsidy would mean fewer Illinois trains

Amtrak service in Illinois could be cut severely if state funding is reduced, the railroad’s chief executive warns.
Amtrak service in Illinois could be cut severely if state funding is reduced, the railroad’s chief executive warns. AP

The crash Tuesday night of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia forced the CEO of the passenger rail company to cancel an appearance Wednesday before an Illinois House committee, where he was scheduled to testify against a proposed $16 million cut in the state’s subsidy.

Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman was scheduled to testify against the cut at a hearing Wednesday before an Illinois House transportation committee.

Amtrak board member Thomas Carper, an Illinois native and former mayor of Macomb, testified instead.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, announced at the start of the hearing that Boardman wouldn’t be attending, due to the Philadelphia Amtrak crash that killed at least six passengers and injured dozens more.

Carper told committee members that "there will be service cuts" in the frequency of trains on some routes if the state’s Amtrak subsidy is reduced by $16 million.

“I don’t know which routes would be cut,” Carper said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, dealing with a $6.2 billion gap in the state budget, has proposed a $16 million cut in the annual subsidy the state pays to Amtrak. The subsidy would decrease from $42 million to $26 million.

Carper said the passenger fee for an Amtrak trip within Illinois costs between $25 and $88, depending on the route and other variables.

Amtrak stations in the region include ones in St. Louis, Alton and Centralia. Alton is getting a new Amtrak station, with work scheduled to start this summer.

Beiser said the area around the Alton station has been "given new life" because of the new station, with a hotel and other business developments in the works.

The state currently pays Amtrak a subsidy to run extra trains on the Chicago-to-St. Louis, Chicago-to-Carbondale and Chicago-to-Quincy routes.

Amtrak says it serves about 5 million riders per year at Illinois stations. Amtrak officials say having frequent trains is critical to making a route practical for riders.

Carper, in his opening remarks, mentioned the Philadelphia crash, saying Amtrak is “deeply saddened.” He said he would not be making additional comments about the crash.

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