Tell Springfield: The Capital Bill needs more trains!

May 20, 2019

As you read this, your legislators in Springfield are busy dividing up the pie. Tell them to give trains a bigger slice!

Now is the time to demand more Amtrak trains, better Metra service, and high-speed rail! We've made it easy to send a message. Take action now!

Several weeks ago, Illinois Senator Martin Sandoval introduced legislation for a major transportation package that could lead to more trains around Illinois and the Midwest by significantly rethinking the way the state funds and selects projects.

Last week, Governor Pritzker released his own proposal for a “capital bill,” but it lacks some of the critical advantages of Sen. Sandoval’s proposal, and instead opts for “business as usual."

Sen. Sandoval’s proposal includes the creation of a sustainable, dedicated fund for transit that would set aside money every year for things like track upgrades for better Metra and Amtrak service. Knowing that these funds would be available into the future would make it easier to plan and execute the sort of large-scale, transformational projects we need to bring high-speed rail to the Midwest.

Gov. Pritzker’s proposal only contains a few one-time allocations for certain transit projects, leaving trains and transit to an uncertain future of relying on one-off legislative appropriations. A good solution would be to dedicate 30% or more of new state transportation revenue to trains and transit.

Sen. Sandoval’s proposal also includes a requirement that major projects be evaluated and prioritized based on a broad range of data-driven, measurable factors like environmental impact, economic development, and safety. This would make it much easier for trains to compete with traditional highway projects, but Gov. Pritzker’s proposal lacks this forward-thinking requirement.

Finally, Sen. Sandoval’s proposal indexes the gas tax and other transportation user fees to inflation, ensuring these revenue sources do not effectively degrade over time as they do today. Gov. Pritzker’s proposal does not index to inflation, meaning the state will find itself back in the same funding squeeze ten or so years from now.

Illinois has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make it easier to get around and significantly reduce our carbon impact by setting a transportation policy that favors investing in trains and transit. Instead, the Pritzker administration is pushing a retrograde approach that would only further entrench Illinois and the Midwest’s reliance on cars and highways.