“Ridership starts building political will. Those are all voters and constituents,” Szabo says.
“I take a look at what happened back home in Illinois when they increased their state-sponsored Amtrak service between Chicago-St. Louis, Chicago-Carbondale and Chicago-Quincy.
“The very first year ridership went up more than 100 percent. It was about 118 percent in one year’s time.
“The support for the expansion was overwhelming. Totally bipartisan in the Illinois general assembly because they were hearing from every chamber of commerce, every public university, the environmental groups, the business community, the labor community, all the mayors.
“Illinois got it because the political support was so tremendous from every corner of the state.
“And the ridership proved it was the right thing to do.”
Szabo says that the interest is there and will turn into political will, which keeps the train moving down the tracks.
“I wasn’t the least bit surprised when we put our first round of grants out at the level of interest that we saw from the states across the country and this pent-up demand,” Szabo says.