SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation to add Illinois to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC), a regional association that promotes the development of intercity rail. House Bill 4344 adds Illinois to the number of Midwestern states working to promote and advocate for passenger rail service on a federal, regional and local level. Last year, Gov. Blagojevich doubled funding for state sponsored passenger rail in Illinois’ partnership with Amtrak, more than doubling the number of daily round-trips on downstate routes.
“Taking the train is safe, convenient, affordable, and helps reduce congestion. Here in Illinois we’ve seen double digit increases in our annual passenger rail ridership numbers, and just this past fall we added even more state-supported train routes to give people more options,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
For Fiscal Year 2006, which ended last June, a total of 955,529 passengers took state-sponsored trains, an increase of more than 11 percent from the previous year, also marking the second year in a row in which all state-sponsored routes set ridership records.
HB 4344, sponsored by State Rep. Kathleen Ryg (D-Vernon Hills) and State Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago), allows Illinois to join the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact, an association of member states that works to promote improvements and long-range planning for interstate passenger rail, as well as to coordinate interaction between Midwestern state officials and the public and private sectors. Currently, seven other states are members of the Compact including: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio.
“Illinois is stepping up to the plate and recognizing the importance of making sure we have a strong network for passenger rail. It’s efficient, reduces congestion and is good for the environment,” said Rep. Ryg. “It is essential that Midwestern states work together on a coordinated strategy as we seek to improve interstate rail passenger service and build upon our regional network, and I thank the Governor for his leadership in signing this bill.”
“Transportation issues are a priority and will become an even greater priority in the future for the Midwest, and especially Illinois, which is considered the crossroads of the nation,” said Sen. Munoz. “It’s important that we join the MIPRC to coordinate our efforts with our neighbors in seeking improvements to rail passenger service that will benefit us all.”
In 2006, Gov. Blagojevich and members of the Illinois General Assembly doubled the state funding to Amtrak for passenger rail service in Illinois to $24 million, second only to California. The increase more than doubled the state-sponsored rail service on downstate routes. The expanded service, starting October 30, comes after news that all four of the state sponsored Amtrak routes posted record ridership levels for state fiscal year 2006.
“Governor Blagojevich and lawmakers are providing people here in Illinois with more opportunities to take the train, and in many communities passenger rail is the only form of public transportation,” said IDOT Secretary Timothy W. Martin. “Passenger rail is a vital part of our transportation system, and working together with other Midwestern states will help it to improve in the future.”