FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS – Visiting a Fairview Heights MetroLink stop today, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation that will enable the state to pump an additional $10.7 million into several downstate mass transit districts to cover costs associated with service expansions and other operating expenses. These funds will enable working families throughout Illinois to have better access to their jobs, homes and schools.
The new funding includes nearly $6 million for the Metro East area. As a direct result of the legislation the Governor signed today, the St. Clair County Transit District will receive $5.4 million on top of the state support they otherwise would have received. The Madison County transit district will also receive an additional $500,000 to support their operations. Both districts will use these additional funds to implement plans that will enhance transportation services throughout their areas.
“Access to affordable and reliable public transportation is critical to working families today,” said Governor Blagojevich. “With today’s unstable gas prices, they need public transit systems that provide them with affordable alternatives to get to work, school and other important destination points. These dollars will expand their access to the public transit options they need.”
Funds for the St. Clair County Transit District will help expand existing light rail service to an additional 5,000 riders, while the Madison County Transit District will expand the frequency of existing bus routes that serve two million bus and para-transit riders.
“By investing in mass transit, we are making a commitment to help people in their everyday lives,” said State Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville). “People rely on the transit system to go to work, get to the doctor’s office and to see family and friends. This funding will help us to build on the many recent improvements that we are making to the Metro East transportation infrastructure.”
“These funds will provide a real boost to the light rail service we are currently providing to the St. Clair County area,” said Bill Grogan, managing director of the St. Clair County Transit District. “We’ll also be able to meet the added demand we are expecting on our system when the Cross County MetroLink extension opens up in Fall of 2006.”
Grogan said that the new line in Missouri will serve Clayton, the St. Louis County seat, and Washington University, enabling many St. Clair residents to take public transportation to jobs and classes across the Mississippi. Grogan said the district currently serves 12,500 train riders a day and about 8,400 bus riders in St. Clair and Monroe counties. The MetroLink expansion is expected to add 5,000 train riders per day to the system.
“I’m very pleased that St. Clair County will receive these much needed dollars to support mass transportation,” said State Senator James F. Clayborne (D-Belleville), the State Senate Majority Caucus Whip. “With ever escalating gas prices, it becomes more important that we dedicate more dollars to mass transportation.”
"I am glad to see the increase in funding for the Metro East mass transit districts," Rep. Thomas Holbrook (D-Belleville). "With the MetroLink expansion and increased ridership, it's critical that we properly fund transit operations so that commuters and people with disabilities receive the services they need. Improving the mass transit infrastructure will not only give more residents access to affordable public transportation, it will also encourage economic development in our region."
Jerry Kane, Managing Director of the Madison County Transit District, said, “These funds will allow us to improve the service frequency on some routes in the Alton area. We will turn some 60 minute bus routes into 30 minute routes.”
The Madison County agency serves two million bus and para-transit riders per year, Kane said. He said the district expects the increased frequency will lead to a corresponding increase in riders.
"The Madison County mass transit system will benefit greatly from the funding announced today,” said State Senator William R. Haine (D-Alton). “The need for transit options grows daily and this money will help build on to the great system that we have in Madison County."
House Bill 2222, signed by Governor Blagojevich today, also allows new public transportation systems to qualify for state support. For example, the Shawnee system which services Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski and Union Counties will receive $600,000 for operating expenses in FY06, and the Monroe-Randolph Counties system will receive $350,000 in operating assistance from the state.
In addition to providing a spur to economic development, mass transit provides additional benefits in terms of reducing congestion on area roads and highways and cutting harmful emissions from automobiles.
Increased funding for downstate mass transit is part of the fiscal year 2006 budget, which also includes a statewide increase of $330 million for K-12 education, an expansion of health care that will cover 56,000 more uninsured working parents and no increase in the income or sales tax.