State support for Amtrak would go down by more than one-third, under the governor's proposed budget. While they did not come out and ask lawmakers to spare the rail service, Amtrak officials did want to make it clear just what the state gets for $42 million a year.
“Amtrak is not here to tell the state what to do,” board member Tom Carper told reporters after his appearance before a House transportation committee in Springfield. “We want to make sure that everybody has everything before these decisions are made.”
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Carper, the former mayor of Macomb, was a last-minute replacement for Amtrak president Joe Boardman, who was called to Philadelphia because of the derailment there the night before.
The railroad's Chicago-based lobbyist, Derrick James, said Amtrak cannot cut its way to prosperity, describing the concept of “aggressively managing the revenue,” as in its Northeast Corridor routes. “That is driven by frequencies and trip time. The more attractive the service is, the more you can charge the customer,” James said. “If we degrade the level of service by reducing frequencies, that makes it even less attractive to travel.”
Amtrak's place in Illinois is not lost on State Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb), who said, “If you take the small stretch between Quincy and Galesburg, the service touches four entities of higher education.”