Normal’s mayor advocates for passenger rail systems in front of US Senate panel

Normal Mayor Chris Koos at Senate hearing.
Normal Mayor Chris Koos at Senate hearing.(25 News)
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 8:19 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - The long-time mayor of Normal was on Capitol Hill Wednesday to speak in front of a Senate transportation committee.

Mayor Chris Koos was nominated to serve on the Amtrak Board of Directors and spoke about his experience with Uptown Station in Normal.

“The key to its success is partnership and engagement by all levels of government, the private sector, the community and all those that recognize the support and benefits passenger rail can provide,” he explained.

Koos went on to say the Uptown Station in Normal has been an incredible success. It was opened in 1990 and rebuilt in 2012. Since then, Koos said it has become the second biggest Amtrak station in Illinois second only to Chicago’s Union Station.

He said around 230,000 passengers go through Uptown in a given year, citing pre-pandemic statistics.

Koos estimates the overall economic development associated with the Amtrak station in Normal is around $175 million.

Part of his goal as a prospective board member is to expand Amtrak service to other communities.

“There are hundreds of cities and towns throughout the United States, including many not served by Amtrak today, that could and should experience the mobility and community development benefits of passenger rail investment that the Normal residents enjoy,” said Koos.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos in Washington, D.C.
Normal Mayor Chris Koos in Washington, D.C.(25 News)

Koos said even though he is advocating for Amtrak service, he admits there are improvements to be made.

“As much as I admire Amtrak, I recognize its need for improvement. There are several things that I will focus on as a member of the board if confirmed. One of them is long distance service. I know how important Amtrak’s long distance trains are to residents of Normal who lack sufficient airport access, as well as other travelers from rural communities I have met on the Texas Eagle for instance. Many of them use the train for short distance trips because no other public transportation is available,” he explained.

Mayor Koos also wants Amtrak to expand access and resources for people with disabilities.

Koos said, “Amtrak also plays a major role in the mobility and independence of the disability community all of who should experience accessible and reliable service when they travel.”

Senators on the committee will have until September 12 to submit questions for Koos and the other nominees. Those nominated will then have until September 19 to submit their answers prior to a vote.