More trains to Southern and to Western and additional calls at Illinois State, even as tuitions rise and the research missions shrink ...
In the past some Amtrak routes between Chicago and downstate cities have been threatened, but this year legislators want Amtrak to operate two additional round-trips between Chicago and St. Louis.
They are willing to triple what the state pays Amtrak in order to do that.
The proposed increase also would fund one extra round-trip along the Chicago-to-Carbondale route and another round-trip between Chicago and Quincy.
This fiscal year, the state is paying Amtrak $12.1 million. Identical bills in the Illinois House and Senate would increase that annual support to $35 million.
“This proposal is building up a head of steam, and it will likely be altered in the coming weeks to reflect the financial capabilities of both the state and federal government,” said state Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, D-Evanston, a bill sponsor.
The extra money would be needed to employ additional crew members, print new schedules and add rail cars.
Transportation bills do require the governor's signature.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he has not yet decided whether to support the legislation.The governor has taken some stick for maintaining his household in Chicago and maintaining an office there. He might have to extract a pledge that critics not call attention to additional morning and evening trips into Springfield that would allow him to put in a full day there.