Thursday, June 26, 2008

Amtrak Cuts

Just received this email about the proposed cuts in the Illinois budget to Amtrak (which would impact us directly) and other mass transit cuts (impacting Carbondale indirectly):

On Tuesday, Governor Blagojevich shockingly threatened to eliminate two programs that matter to transit riders across Illinois. One program in danger helps fund free rides for seniors and reduced fares for students and people with disabilities-it would be completely eliminated.

The other elimination is the "Amtrak Illinois" program, which funds service between 28 cities and towns across the state. This program was doubled in 2006 and has far surpassed all expectations. Trains are frequently sold out.

The Governor's outline of the threatened cuts states that since 2007 Amtrak Illinois ridership has increased "from 42% to 67%, depending upon the line." To understand how small the existing program is, consider that IDOT recently received a special appropriation for road kill cleanup that was roughly twice the annual Amtrak appropriation. As it stands, these intercity services need to grow. It is outrageous that the Governor is threatening to cut them.

The threatened cuts are part of a bigger fight over the budget. It is hard to believe that the governor would cut transit funding and eliminate Amtrak Illinois services as gas prices march towards $5.00/gal, but it's what's on the table right now!

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