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Durbin criticizes House bill’s cuts to Amtrak

Updated: January 23, 2012 4:10AM

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill that comes up for discussion this week in Washington will “seriously hurt Illinois” if passed, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday.

“The House of Representatives’ bill would seriously hurt Amtrak,” Durbin said during a press conference at Union Station. “It will cut the Amtrak budget by 60 percent and eliminate local train routes in Illinois.”

Illinois routes targeted include 14 round-trip trains from Chicago to St. Louis, Carbondale, Milwaukee and Quincy. Long-distance routes also would be affected.

In addition, the bill has a legislative rider prohibiting Amtrak from using any federal funds to help states pay for state supported routes, and provides no money for high-speed and intercity rail projects.

A separate bill in the Senate would maintain current funding levels for Amtrak and also includes a bipartisan amendment, authored by Durbin, that would restore $100 million for high-speed and intercity rail.

Last week, Amtrak announced that in the 2011 fiscal year it carried 30 million passengers, the highest total since the company began operations in 1971.

“The House bill is a short-sighted effort to cut Amtrak at a time when it’s proven that it works for Illinois and the nation,” Durbin said.

If the House bill is passed, Amtrak expects to lay off many of the more than 1,800 employees in Illinois, according to Durbin.

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