Tuesday, August 07, 2007
sponsored by Graue Inc. & Illini Bank

Legislators and advocates introduce Illinois Fast Track Initiative        Send a link to a friend

[August 07, 2007]  SPRINGFIELD -- On Tuesday in Springfield, a coalition of state and local elected officials and passenger rail advocates from throughout Illinois unveiled the second stage of the Illinois Fast Track Initiative and called on the General Assembly to include passenger rail investments as a significant part of any capital package.

[click on map for larger image]

Relatively small amounts of dollars for downstate Amtrak projects create large economic returns for Illinois -- much better than corresponding highway projects. For example, it's much less than $20 million to get 110 mph service between Joliet and Springfield, making Amtrak service faster than driving between Chicago and the state capital.

Extending Amtrak service to the Quad Cities, and connecting Chicago, Rockford, Freeport and Galena are also relatively cheap investments -- each less than $40 million in capital costs -- compared with widening roads or building interstate exchanges.

As the legislative debate seemed to shift over the last few days to include a capital plan, passenger rail advocates are calling to ensure Amtrak Illinois service is included, as the returns on the investment are so high.

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The Illinois General Assembly implemented the first stage of the Fast Track Initiative last year by doubling service on downstate routes effective Oct. 30, 2006. This expansion has led to an explosion in ridership that has made Illinois the model for successful passenger rail expansion.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is a membership-supported advocacy organization working for fast, frequent and dependable trains in the region. The association's online site is at www.midwesthsr.org and its director is Rick Harnish, who can be reached at 312-339-0116.

[Text from file received from the Midwest High Speed Rail Association]

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