Sen. Durbin Meets With Area Leaders About Potential Federal Transportation Cuts

Apr 21, 2017

Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin met Friday with southern Illinois leaders to talk about the impact of proposed federal cuts to transportation.

Durbin says President Trump's plan harshly targets the region.

"Eliminating some forms of Amtrak service that are critical for the future of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, not to mention other schools in the region.  Going after the Essential Air Service at the Williamson County-Marion Airport is going to jeopardize and endanger, may cost us basic air service that we need."
Amtrak Senior Director Ray Lang says eliminating long distance routes - including the City of New Orleans that serves Carbondale - would not be a big cost-saver because the equipment and infrastructure would still need to be maintained.
"Plus, you really lose the connectivity, which comes from being able to connect from one short distance train to a long distance train or vice versa and get around the United States."
Doug Kimmel is director of Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois in Marion. He says eliminating Essential Air Service comes at a time when his facility is enjoying increased ridership and a strong relationship with Cape Air.
"At a point and time when we're actually working with an airline, we have now for seven, going on eight years, that is wonderful to work with. It provides a great, safe, affordable product that it stimulating traffic and has the potential to continue increasing ridership."
Kimmel says his airport receives about two million dollars per year in federal subsidies. He says the goal is to eventually be able to operate without the subsidies, but they aren't there yet.

Durbin says the proposal flies in the face of Trump's pledged to invest a trillion dollars to rebuild aging infrastructure.
"But, you certainly don't achieve infrastructure growth by cutting back dramatically on TIGER programs and other programs currently available to help southern Illinois and communities like Carbondale."
SIU President Randy Dunn says the Amtrak cuts are especially troubling since a significant number of students and employees use the service.
"Particularly as we've had to cut back on our own travel and saying if you're going to get to Chicago, or you need to get to New Orleans, or Memphis, or wherever, for university related purposes, it's a good way to stretch the travel dollar. If that's closed to us, it's of great concern."
Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams says transportation options are already limited in southern Illinois, so these proposed cuts impact the region's most vulnerable residents.
"Collectively, all of these things are bad for our population, in particular, for folks that are poor, that need access and need more help."