Editorial misses mark on high-speed rail

 
Published3/16/2009 12:08 AM

Your editorial "Let's do more with stimulus ..." fails to recognize key facts about the economic recovery bill and the proposed high-speed rail route from Chicago to St. Louis.

First, the bill was never designed to be the primary source of funding to remedy every problem in every community. Instead, it was designed to create or save millions of jobs; provide tax relief for middle-class families; and make investments in our economic future.

 

The bill includes $8 billion for high-speed passenger rail nationwide. If Illinois doesn't tap into those funds, other states will happily take the dollars. Your contention that those dollars can be reallocated to non-rail projects is just plain wrong. That said, I will work to maximize the funding Illinois receives through every account in the economic recovery bill, including construction and improvements for local roads, highways and schools.

Passenger rail has largely been ignored for the past eight years. Your opposition to improving a train route serving Joliet, Bloomington-Normal and our state's capitol is shortsighted. President Obama understands that investing in passenger rail will provide jobs while improving our transportation options.

That's a vision I wholeheartedly support.

High-speed rail won't become a reality overnight. On the Northeast Corridor, the most successful route in the nation, speeds were increased incrementally and ridership followed. The same will be true for the Lincoln line in Illinois, where gradual improvements in recent months have made the line the most viable candidate for high-speed rail service.

In regard to flood control projects for local communities along the Des Plaines River, I've continued my commitment to make these improvements in yearly appropriations bills, including the omnibus bill President Obama just signed into law. Incidentally, the only way to make sure there was timely flood abatement funding for Illinois was to secure it with an earmark - a process which some have condemned.

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You express disappointment that Governor Quinn and I focused on high speed rail when touting the benefits of the bill for Illinois. I was disappointed that you didn't contact my office to fill in some of the gaps in your knowledge first.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

Assistant Senate Majority Leader

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