No Cuts in Illinois Service through June 30

Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation announced on Friday an agreement to maintain through June 30 the current schedule and fares of trains funded by the state.

“This agreement preserves the service that riders have come to expect, while saving taxpayers money and avoiding fare increases for our downstate routes,” said IDOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.

IDOTService levels on Illinois-funded trains had been in jeopardy due to the lack of a budget for fiscal year 2016 and the desire of Gov. Bruce Rauner to reduce funding for Amtrak service by 40 percent.

Illinois has agreed to pay $38.3 million toward state-supported trains for the current fiscal year compared with $42 million in FY 2015.

IDOT negotiated credits for previous spending by the state on Amtrak equipment upgrades, including Wi-Fi service, as well as a $2.7 million cut in an Amtrak request for additional equipment upgrades and maintenance.

Amtrak said last November that nearly 1.3 million passengers rode Illinois-funded  trains in FY 2015, a 4 percent drop from the previous fiscal year.

The railroad blamed falling gasoline prices and service interruptions for the drop in patronage.

Illinois underwrites four pairs of trains between Chicago and St. Louis; two pairs of trains between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois; and two pairs of trains between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois. All three routes are covered in part by long-distance trains that are not funded by the state.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari called the agreement a good deal for both sides.

“We’ve had a long series of conversations with Illinois DOT and they wanted very much to try and find what they could do to save the service at the current level, so do we,” Magliari said.

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