IDOT, Amtrak Reach Deal To Keep Trains Running Without Fare Increases
February 6, 2016 10:58 AMBy Bob Roberts
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Amtrak announced Friday that, after months of negotiations, they had reached agreement on a subsidy level that will keep all current trains running without fare increases.
Amtrak has received a $42 million subsidy in recent years, and Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed a cut to $26 million, effectively cutting service levels in half on its trains linking Chicago with Carbondale, Quincy, St. Louis and Milwaukee. The compromise sets the subsidy level for the current fiscal year to $38.3 million, giving the state credit for improvements IDOT made on Amtrak’s behalf.
“This agreement preserves the service that riders have come to expect while saving taxpayer money and avoiding a fare increase for our downstate routes,” said state Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.
“Our partnership with Illinois is one of the longest and the second-largest, growing to more than 2 million passengers a year,” said Amtrak Senior Vice President Jay Commer.
Downstate communities served by Amtrak lobbied hard to keep service and fares at current levels.
While Midwest High-Speed Rail Association Executive Director Rick Harnish is pleased with the agreement, he said he would like to see additional Amtrak service on the Illinois corridors, saying it would drive costs down while increasing ridership.
Harnish said he is confident that service will remain at current levels past June 30.