Weekly Newsletter: Illinois General Assembly takes step towards high-speed rail

March 02, 2015

Amidst the uproar surrounding Governor Rauner’s decisions to put already-funded services on hold and call for a 40% cut to Amtrak, leaders in the Illinois General Assembly managed to make some significant progress on high-speed rail.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Clayborne, D-Belleville, and Representative Ammons, D-Champaign, introduced identical bills in their respective chambers seeking $15 million for a Tier I EIS for a Chicago-East St. Louis/Indianapolis high-speed line. I briefly mentioned the bill in the previous newsletter, but I think it’s worth describing in greater detail.

MHSRA has been organizing supporters to advocate for this service over the past few years. The Tier I EIS is a critical piece of planning work that is needed to design a route, demonstrate a project’s viability and attract federal or private funding. Finding funding for a Tier I EIS for a 220mph demonstration project is the single most important next step in promoting high-speed rail in the region. It is also the logical next step after IDOT released a feasibility study for the corridor in 2013.

The proposed route would connect O’Hare Airport, Chicago Union Station, McCormick Place, Champaign, Decatur, Springfield and East St. Louis. It would also feature a branch to Indianapolis from Champaign.

Bills with this much potential aren’t introduced often. Although Illinois lawmakers face a tough fiscal situation in the coming months, there is an opportunity to move the project forward. The upcoming capital bill – which draws on different revenues than the operating budget – will be introduced next spring. If we continue educating elected officials on the importance of high-speed trains, Illinois could see significant investments for trains like in past capital bills.

Before we look towards the capital bill, it’s important to step back and appreciate that the bill has made it this far. Key Illinois politicians are showing they will stand behind high-speed rail. It will also be instrumental in driving debate about much-needed high-speed rail investments. While we must continue to work to educate policy-makers, it is encouraging to see an upward trend in support for high-speed trains at the highest levels of state government.

Check out the full bill here.

All the best,

Julius Parod
Manager of Communications

PS: We had a tremendous response to last week’s email. Thank you to everyone who donated, petitioned the Governor or offered words of encouragement. If you’d like to join our campaign to save Illinois’ trains you can still contribute here.

Last Week at MHSRA:

MHSRA Executive Director Rick Harnish and Board Member Dave Winters testified at an Illinois Senate Transportation Committee hearing in favor of the Chicago-Rockford Amtrak service put on hold by Governor Rauner. Over 200 train supporters, including major stakeholders of both parties from across Northwest Illinois, stood together to advocate for the line. Read more here.

On the Blog:

Northwest Illinois comes together to support Amtrak

Articles We Enjoyed:

Residents rally for train in downtown Rockford
“’It’s amazing to get so many [people] to come out at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon to show support for this project,’ said [Senator] Stadelmam.”

One day, we’ll wonder what all the fuss about high-speed rail was about
A great read for anyone who cares about high-speed rail or public transit.

Rauner budget would cut Amtrak trains as ridership is climbing
Amtrak spokesperson warns of less service.

DAN RICHARD: Correcting High Speed Rail misinformation from senator
California High-Speed Rail’s Chairman calls out irresponsible claims by a major HSR opponent.

Amtrak considers new routes
Students at Western Illinois University express support for Amtrak.

Railway Budget 2015: At 200 km Speed Delhi to Kolkata or Mumbai to be Overnight Trips
Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai routes similar distance as Chicago to New York.

Iran launches €2.4b [$2.6b] high-speed rail project
Tehran-Isfahan line train will reach speeds of nearly 220 mph.

Upcoming Events:

March 21st - Annual Spring Meeting in Chicago, IL. See presentations by public officials and transportation experts from across the Midwest.

April 29th - Illinois Railroad Summit in Springfield, IL. Save the date; more details to follow.

A donation of $15 or more today will go directly towards educating elected officials. Can you help us move forward in 2015?

Julius Parod
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
Join today at MidwestHSR.org/Join-Us