Last year when then-Governor Pat Quinn came to Rockford to unveil Amtrak service starting in 2015, we argued on the show that this was another one of Quinn's empty campaign promises that would be unlikely to come true. That the announcement was an attempt to curry favor with voters in the midst of a heated campaign for re-election. And with the state in such financial trouble it seemed hard to believe money would be discovered to fund the project.

Getty Images
Getty Images

It appears more and more likely that we were right. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has issued a response to local lawmakers regarding the future of an Amtrak passenger rail service to Rockford. In short, everything is uncertain. Officials stressed that project stakeholders should understand the status of the project is in limbo and consider the possibility that it might or might not be terminated.

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski was most direct in his comments about the promised funding for the train:

“The availability of funds for this project was falsely advertised.  There was no money designated for the project. It was an outrageous political lie by the prior administration. We must proceed cautiously and explore other means of developing transportation until IDOT determines their current and future fiscal outlook.”

Meanwhile, State Rep. John Cabello is the Spokesperson for the Appropriations Public Safety Committee. He also was less than optimistic about any movement in the near future:

“It’s unfortunate that this project continues to be unsuccessful, but the reality is the funds were never allocated. IDOT is in a difficult fiscal situation and will have to evaluate its long-term fiscal problems before committing to the project. I will have a better understanding as I work with Secretary Blakenhorn to appropriate IDOT’s FY16 Budget. However, we must first and foremost be stewards to the taxpayers of the state.”

State Sen. Dave Syverson has spoken in the past about asking the "adult questions" about where the money for the Amtrak service would be found:

“This is a project that we all want, and that I think everyone is excited about but unfortunately our last Governor made a promise that he never funded. In light of our state’s current fiscal condition, it looks like the project will continue to be delayed until suitable funding can be found.”

According to a press release, the Amtrak expansion to Rockford will be reviewed by IDOT soon. Officials will allow for local residents to submit their concerns for the future of the project as they also work to evaluate other projects around the State.

In the meantime, if we want to serve the high number of supercommuters who travel round trip each day to Chicago, perhaps an expansion of passenger bus service to the Metra stop in Elgin would make sense. You can read the feasibility study on such a project right here.

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