Politicians in western Illinois want to make sure those in Washington DC know support for Amtrak reaches across the aisle and across the miles.
Republican State Representatives Norine Hammond and Don Moffitt, Democratic State Senator John Sullivan, and the mayors of four western Illinois communities (Galesburg, Monmouth, Macomb, and Quincy) gathered at the Galesburg train depot to urge Congress to continue funding for passenger rail.
Macomb Mayor Mike Inman said Amtrak is needed in the region for business travel, recreational trips, and for students going to and from the state’s colleges and universities.
“We’ll make sure that the message gets out about how critically important (Amtrak is) to economic development,” Inman said. “Essentially the lifeblood of our community is often times connected with our ability to have passenger rail service here.”
Inman said highways and air travel enjoy federal support. He believes passenger rail should be no different.
He also said it’s clear people travel from other communities to use the Amtrak service offered in Macomb. He said the parking lots near the depot often include cars with license plates from Iowa and Missouri and that could be benefiting local businesses.
“It would be naive in some cases to think that while they were here they didn’t avail themselves of some other opportunities to support our economy, whether that’s getting a tank of gas or having a meal while they were either coming in or going out of town,” Inman said.
He said the local business community needs to make sure it’s addressing that market.
Inman believes Amtrak is just hitting its stride. He said the line that runs through Macomb has experienced a nearly 90% increase in ridership over the past five years. He also believes passenger rail is increasingly popular with those in younger demographics who prefer mass transit to car travel.