Champaign Groups Form Coalition to Preserve Rail Funding

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 CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign County first group, a partnership of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, is forming a coalition to preserve Amtrak rail funding and service level along the I-57 corridor.

This coalition comes as a result of the budget stalemate occurring in the Illinois capitol. These groups seek to protect the Illini and Saluki trains that connect the University of Illinois, Eastern Illinois University and the Southern Illinois Universities. The connection of these academic areas is known as the I-57 Amtrak Knowledge Corridor.

The Champaign County first group is launching an online petition to alert state elected officials to the need for the I-57 corridor to be maintained.

Champaign County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Laura Weis believes the online petition will work quickly to bring several communities together for a common interest. Partners are working to spread the message to their respective state elected officials that the rail service should be maintained.

Weis also says ridership has increased to point that the community is requesting more trains. The Illinois Department of Transportation confirms the corridor could support two more additional trains a day.

“We understand that with the state's fiscal crisis, there are numerous entities and organizations at risk for funding. Amtrak funding will not compete with those other needs in our community. This is the type of issue that may not seem like a priority to the average citizen – especially in light of a state budget crisis, but it becomes a priority when we lose the service. And, at that point it is too late. Once a train goes off-line, it takes a long time to get the services restored,” Weis says.

Over 27 communities, businesses and organizations along the corridor have signed on as coalition partners. Those interested in reading the petition can find it here.
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