Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 18, 2012

U. of Illinois to Get New Rail Center

A center dedicated to railroad education and research is being set up on the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The NURail Center will be under the director of U of I Professor Chris Barkan. He said a lot of the work that will take place will focus on improving the safety and reliability of rail transportation. Barkan explained that will include coming up with better ways to transport hazardous materials, and addressing challenges in using rail corridors for both higher-speed passenger trains and freight trains.

"As we want to operate at higher speeds, there's a continuous quest among both the industry and government to further improve safety," Barkan said. "If you look at the data on railroad safety; they've done nothing but get better and better over the last couple of decades. And the idea is that we want to continue that trend."

The U of I is leading a consortium of other universities involved in the project, including the University of Illinois-Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan Technological University, University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

"Illinois has the nation's best programs in rail engineering and transit system development and operation, and these UTC's (Urban Transportation Centers) will help the nation and region prepare for future freight and passenger rail needs," said U of I President Michael Hogan

There are several rail projects are underway in Illinois, including upgrading a Chicago-St. Louis rail corridor for 110 mph service.

Categories: Education, Transportation

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 18, 2012

Taxi Service Comes Back to Decatur

Decatur will soon have taxi service again.

The city council Tuesday night agreed to issue a license to A1 Taxi, a company operated by Anthony Walker.

Walker previously ran AOK Taxi, but his license was revoked after he allegedly used an unregistered vehicle, and made unannounced changes to the company's fleet. City Manager Ryan McCrady said he is hopeful the same problems won't happen again.

"Many people might be surprised that we re-issued a license to a gentleman who was involved in the operations of that company, too," McCrady said. "But at the end of the day, you have to put that stuff aside and figure out what's right for your community. Our community needs a taxi service. We have transportation needs in our community that can't be fulfilled efficiently through public transit, and a taxi service is the best way to solve that need."

McCrady said the city will work with Walker closer this time around to make sure the taxis are safe and the company is well regulated. He added that A1 Taxi should be up at running within a couple of weeks.

Categories: Transportation

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 18, 2012

Indiana House Dems Want to Challenge Fines in Court

Indiana House Democrats say they'll go to court to challenge the $1,000-a-day fines they face for their legislative boycott over the right-to-work bill.

Democratic leader Patrick Bauer says he believes the House leadership doesn't have the legal authority to deduct the fines from pay checks of members. A similar court challenge is pending from fines imposed on Democratic legislators who took part in last year's five-week boycott.

House Republicans voted Wednesday to impose the fines after Democrats skipped the House session for the fifth time in 10 days it has tried to meet this month.

Republican Speaker Brian Bosma says he intends to begin withholding the fines immediately from the boycotters' paychecks. He says the deductions are legal.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 18, 2012

Champaign Avoids Two Cuts in Public Service

The city of Champaign has managed to avoid two cuts in public service that were proposed as part of cuts to the city budget.

One of the cuts would have involved closing the front desk at police headquarters on evenings and weekends. But Deputy Police Chief Troy Daniels said the department had decided they can keep the desk open with reduced staff. Daniels says the front desk serves a vital role in public safety --- notably for people trying to reach a police officer without a phone.

"There have also been times when people ran into the police department because someone's chased, or they've recently been injured, or they've been in the area and it's freezing cold outside and there have nowhere else to go," Daniels said. "Under the new arrangements, police officers will come in off of patrol at times to fill in for front desk personnel who go on break."

At the same time, members of the Champaign firefighters union have agreed to wage and time concessions in a deal that will keep the 2nd engine company at Fire Station Four fully staffed. The union is providing 55-percent of the funding through wage and time concessions in a side-letter agreement that will run until June 30, 2013. Fire Chief Douglas Forsman said that means they can drop plans to reduce available fire companies on the west side of the city.

"We were always attempting to limit the impact by essentially browning out the least busy fire company in the city," Forsman said. "However, there was going to be an impact, no question about that. And that has been avoided."

The two proposed cutbacks had been among the most controversial ones proposed during last year's cuts to the Champaign City budget. Both became issues during last year's mayoral and city council elections.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 18, 2012

Indiana Republicans Approve Fines on Boycotters

Indiana House Republicans have approved $1,000-a-day fines against Democratic legislators who are boycotting over a right-to-work bill.

The Republicans approved the fines in a voice vote Wednesday morning as most of the Democratic representatives gathered in the Statehouse Rotunda for what they called an open caucus meeting to discuss the bill to ban union contracts with mandatory representation fees.

The Democrats began their meeting surrounded by hundreds of union supporters, with more watching from the balconies above.

Republican Speaker Brian Bosma had demanded that Democrats end their boycott and give the House enough members present to begin debating proposed amendments to the bill.

Most Democrats resumed their walkout after questions arose about the constitutionality of the statewide referendum they're seeking on the proposal. Bosma calls their action a delay tactic.

Categories: Business, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 18, 2012

Ind. Unveils its 1st License Plate for Gay Youth

Indiana's first specialty license plate that benefits gay causes is now available for purchase.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles says the Indiana Youth Group plate has been available since Dec. 28. The plate bears a logo with hands in rainbow colors reaching up out of a circle.

Some $25 from sales of each $40 plate goes to the group serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

Youth Group Director Mary Byrne tells The Indianapolis Star ( http://indy.st/zl90uE ) that Indiana is the second state in the nation with a specialty plate benefiting gay youths. She says Maryland was the first.

The Youth Group sued the state in 2010 after the BMV twice turned down its request for a specialty plate. Both sides later reached an agreement and the plate was approved.

(Photo courtesy of BMV)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 18, 2012

Urbana to Intervene on Illinois-American Water’s Rate Hike Request

The city of Urbana hopes to have a say before Illinois American Water's local rates go up as much as 18 percent, or roughly $7, this fall.

The city council's 6-1 vote means Urbana will spend up to $8,000 in legal fees to join Champaign, Savoy, St. Joseph, Sidney and Philo, with hopes of reducing the amount of the company's latest rate hike request before the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Illinois-American wants to raise them for 308,000 customers, seeking $38 million in revenues.

External affairs manager Chris Bacon said much of the request is for infrastructure like fire hydrants, valves, and more than four miles of water main. The company will spend $180 million statewide on these upgrades. Meanwhile, $10.5 million in revenues would make up for a decline in water usage among customers.

Alderman Charlie Smyth said that part of the request isn't fair.

"It really bothers me that people who have conserved, who have cut their costs, are going to get punished via this rate increase," Smyth said. "I think that's totally inappropriate."

But Bacon said customers will be better off in the long run.

"The more customers conserve water, the less improvements that we have to make, making repairs to costly mains, wells, pipes, things of that nature," Bacon said.

If the ICC approves the full amount of the request, it would also mean rate increases of about 25 percent for small local commercial customers. Illinois American made the request last October, and expects the process to take about 11 months.

Alderwoman Heather Stevenson cast the lone dissenting vote. Citing tight finances, she says the $8-thousand should be spent on something else with no guarantee the rate hike request will be reduced.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 18, 2012

World Champion Cardinals Honored by President Obama

At a ceremony at the White House Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals were called the "greatest comeback team in the history of baseball."

President Barack Obama made the declaration as he honored the Cardinals for their World Series Championship last year. Despite being a White Sox fan, the President thanked the Cardinals for an amazing season.

"And I also want to thank them for visiting Walter Reed this morning, spending time with our wounded warriors over there," Obama said. "That's what this organization's all about. It represents baseball at its best and I wish them all the best this season. Congratulations."

The team presented President and Mrs. Obama with World Series bats and Cardinal jerseys with the number 44 on their backs (Obama is the 44th President of the United States.)

The President said he was impressed with the team's ability to make up a 10 1/2 game deficit.

"Through skills and guts and -- I think the team would agree -- just a little bit of luck, just a touch, this team made the playoffs," Obama said. "Even though they trailed in each of the series that followed, they somehow had the spirit and the determination and the resolve to survive."

Two important members of last year's team were missing Tuesday: retired manager Tony LaRussa, who had a prior engagement, and former first baseman Albert Pujols - now with the Anaheim Angels -- who declined the invitation.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Categories: Government, Politics, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 18, 2012

Allegiant to Connect Flights from Bloomington to Orlando

Starting in May, an airline carrier will begin providing flights from Bloomington's airport to Florida's Orlando-Sanford International Airport.

AirTran currently offers flights each week into and out of Bloomington to Florida, but that airline will end service in June. Carl Olson, who is the director of the Central Illinois Regional Airport, said Allegiant Air will maintain a new connection to Florida.

"There are other business destinations that we're interested in looking at, but you have to go where the customers are," Olson said. "You have to realize that an airport is a business that has to serve our customers, and our customers in Central Illinois want to go to Central Florida."

Allegiant currently operates flights between Peoria and Tampa, as well as Las Vegas and Phoenix.

With AirTran's imminent departure this summer, the Bloomington airport is expected to lose about 40-percent of its service. AirTran's jets carry 117 passengers while Allegiant flies 150. Olson said he could not comment on efforts to retain that lost business, but he said AirTran's flights have averaged 90-percent capacity and he anticipates similar results with Allegiant Air.

Allegiant begins Thursday and Sunday service between Bloomington-Normal and the Orlando area on May 16, just weeks before AirTran ends its flights. Allegiant is offering $75 one-way introductory fares for this summer if booked by Feb. 6.

Meanwhile, Vision Airlines recently ended service between Champaign's Willard Airport and an airport near Fort Myers, Florida.

Categories: Transportation

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 17, 2012

Jeff Fisher Officially Announced as Rams Head Coach

The new head coach of the St. Louis Rams says he's up for the challenge of turning around a football team that has won just ten games over its last three seasons.

The Rams officially announced Jeff Fisher as the team's coach at a press conference at Rams Park in Earth City today. Fisher replaces Steve Spagnuolo, who was fired a day after the 2011 regular season ended. News of Fisher's move leaked out last week.

Fisher is an "experienced, confident head coach who has been in a lot of different situations," said Rams owner Stan Kronke as he introduced Fisher today. "His teams are tough. I've sat and watched them, we've had occasion to experience them. He's a great coach, he's a great teacher, he's a great leader."

Fisher was until last year the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, where he went 142 and 120 over 17 seasons, losing to the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV. He said he'd always intended to take the year off to refresh, and St. Louis and the Miami Dolphins were the two top contenders for his services.

"My decision was very, very simple," Fisher said. "It was based on a collective vision as far as the future of this franchise. More specifically, it's restoring this franchise to a place of significance. It's an opportunity to take another trip as champions to the White House." (Fisher's official introduction came the same day the St. Louis Cardinals were honored at the White House for their 2011 world championship.)

The Rams, Fisher said, played hard all last season, despite winning just two games. He acknowledged the team has some holes, but says he has faith in third-year quarterback Sam Bradford.

"I think you have to look back at his success and his production in his first year," Fisher said. "This year was difficult for a lot of reasons - the lock-out, the lack of time together in the offense."

The Rams must still find a replacement for general manager Billy Devaney, who was fired along with Spagnuolo. Team vice president Kevin Demoff -- whose father is Fisher's agent -- says Fisher will be part of that search.

The deal Fisher signed just before his introduction is reportedly worth about $7 million a year over five years. As Kroenke put it, "it'll keep him here for a while." But Kroenke sidestepped a question as to whether the Rams will remain in St. Louis for the entire length of Fisher's deal.

"There's a team in place that deals with all that so we'll see how that process sorts itself out. It's a thing that takes place over time," he said.

A clause in the team's lease of the Edward Jones Dome would allow it to leave the city as soon as 2015 if major upgrades aren't made to the Dome. The city must present its proposal for those upgrades by Feb. 1.

(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Categories: Biography, Sports
Tags: sports, people

Page 523 of 848 pages ‹ First  < 521 522 523 524 525 >  Last ›