Illinois passes budget with funds for transit, commuter, intercity rail

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Amtrak's Illinois Zephyr passes through Lisle, Ill., on the BNSF Railway on May 25, 2019. Among items in the new Illinois budget is funding for two additional state-supported Amtrak trains and extension of BNSF commuter service into Kendall County.
TRAINS: David Lassen

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — In a surprise Saturday session, the Illinois General Assembly passed a $45 billion capital spending plan that sets out $2.7 billion for transit and $500 million to fund passenger service on two intercity routes. Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised passage of the bill and is expected to sign it shortly.

The legislation ends a decade-long capital investment drought in in the state, which last enacted a spending plan in 2009. The lack of funding delayed needed repair projects for the Chicago Transit Authority as well as Metra, and prevented planned new construction.

Susan Massel, spokeswoman for the Regional Transportation Authority, tells Trains News Wire by email, “We are heartened to see that in addition to the $2.7 billion allocated for transit capital funding through bonding, there is also annual, sustainable revenue, or ‘pay as you go’ funding allocated for public transportation capital funding.”

Although Massel says the RTA is still reviewing the details of the program, that recurring revenue will become a reality through a doubling of the state’s motor fuel tax from 19 cents per gallon to 38 cents. “This is the type of long-term, stable capital funding that public transportation needs and riders deserve to address our long term capital need of $30 billion over the next decade,” she says.

Specific rail-related programs in the bill include $225 million toward establishment of Chicago-Quad Cities passenger service and $275 million for Chicago-Rockford passenger service; $100 million toward extension of Metra service on the BNSF line into Kendall County; and $400 million toward the CREATE program fixing Chicago-area rail bottlenecks. Funds are also earmarked for repairs and upgrades at a number of specific Metra stations.

The landmark capital investment plan passed with bipartisan support in the legislature. “Senate Republicans demonstrated throughout this session that common ground could be found on key issues like investing in our state’s infrastructure, which will make critical improvements to our state’s roads, bridges and buildings,” said Bloomington’s Bill Brady, Senate Republican leader.

The package was supported by major business groups in the state as well. In a tweet, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce said, “We believe this package and its probusiness reforms will help pave the roads to future financial stability in IL!”

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association also applauded the governor and legislature “for balancing the state’s budget and making a bold investment to rebuild our state’s infrastructure.”

Follow Trains News Wire for more details on many of these projects as they become available.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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