Illinois Seeking Increase in Amtrak Service

The southbound Illini is about to make its stop at Mattoon, Ill., as a northbound Canadian National freight train clears the station in August 2014.

The southbound Illini is about to make its stop at Mattoon, Ill., as a northbound Canadian National freight train clears the station in August 2014.

The state of Illinois is talking about expanding Amtrak service on the Chicago-Carbondale, Ill., corridor, which already sees six daily trains, four of them funded by the state.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin recently wrote to Amtrak to suggest that it offer additional service. Their letter noted that ridership has grown 117 percent since 2006 to nearly 400,000 passengers a year.

“Expanding service on this corridor will continue the great progress Illinois has made to improve passenger rail service throughout the state,” the letter said.

Amtrak’s Illinois service is funded by $10.5 million provided by the state. The Carbondale route is particularly popular with students attending University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University. Adding another round trip would help ease overcrowding and expand Illinois service. Quinn and Durbin requested that Amtrak start a formal feasibility study “as soon as possible,” though it is not clear where the additional subsidy funding would come from.

Scheduling of trains over the busy former Illinois Central main line could be an issue. “We do have some issues with the folks who own the tracks, CN” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. “And we do have some issues with how they’re handling our trains.” Amtrak has set no deadline for when it will schedule the feasibility study for the expansion of service.

State-funded trains on the corridor include the Saluki, which operates in both directions in the morning and the Illini, which operates in the evening. Also service the route is the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans.

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