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Illinois lawmakers push for more money for Amtrak

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis, mO – Passenger rail advocates in Illinois are calling on state leaders to put more public money into passenger rail service.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association wants Governor Rod Blagojevich to budget $40 million this year to improve Amtrak.

The group's Dan Johnson-Weinberger says that would pay for track upgrades as well as two more St. Louis to Chicago trains. He says of the three daily trains now, only one is usually on time. "For two major cities, its ridiculous that we've only got one reliable train a day, [with] three on the schedule," Johnson-Weinberger said Tuesday.

Amtrak officials acknowledge punctuality problems with the trains. But they say ridership has increased on the St. Louis-Chicago line, and that justifies more funding.

Some lawmakers are also joining the group's effort. Democratic Representative Kathy Ryg says better rail links would help the entire state. "

We see interstate passenger rail as really significant as another transportation mode for people to take advantage of. We also know there have been a lot of opportunities for economic development.

"And anything that benefits any area of the state of Illinois benefits all of us."