Threat to Amtrak service in Southern Illinois is real and needs to be addressed

Thank you for shedding light on the threat to Amtrak service through Champaign-Urbana and other towns along the route of Amtrak’s Illini, Saluki, and City of New Orleans.

The threat to Amtrak service is real. However, Canadian National (CN) owns the railroad from Chicago to New Orleans, not the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern (EJ&E;). CN proposes to acquire the EJ&E;, whose route is roughly a “C” around–but not through–the City of Chicago. By acquiring the EJ&E;, CN could abandon a line through downtown Chicago called the St. Charles Air Line.

The Air Line is critical for Amtrak trains that use the CN mainline from Champaign-Urbana and other downstate points to access Chicago Union Station. Abandoning this route would leave these trains with no viable way to access Union Station.

You are correct in reporting that the logical alternative is called the “Grand Crossing”. It would involve re-activating a now-abandoned rail connection near 75th Street in Chicago to access Union Station.

Our Association filed comments Friday with the Surface Transportation Board opposing the abandonment of the St. Charles Airline. We will continue to work to preserve rail service to Southern Illinois.

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Ross B. Capon

Executive Director

National Association of Railroad Passengers

Illini Class of 1969