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Wheelchair users make trip from Chicago to Normal, without $25,000 Amtrak ticket fare

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NORMAL (HOI) -- Amtrak made national headlines last week when it was reported that two wheelchair user passengers would have to pay $25,000 to travel from Chicago to Normal.

A ticket for the trip typically costs $16.

Amtrak was charging them the $25,000 on top of the standard ticket price because the other three people they were traveling with already occupied the three ADA spots on the train. Amtrak said they would need to take a car out of service to remove seats.

The entire group was able to make it to Normal Wednesday for a conference.

However, Access Living, a disability advocacy group that travels downstate frequently with Amtrak, wants to make sure it does not happen again.

Adam Ballard, with Access Living, said the disability advocacy group has had a good relationship with Amtrak, often traveling downstate as a group. That was until Amtrak said they would need to charge them the $25,000 to take a care out of service and perform modifications.

"If a group of non-disabled people traveled together, they'd get a group discount, but if a group of disabled people travel together, apparently we get a $25,000 surcharge," said Adam Ballard of Access Living.

Amtrak has since apologized and charged the group standard ticket prices, but Ballard said he's worried about future trips.

Amtrak Spokesman Marc Magliari spoke with Heart of Illinois ABC after the group arrived in Normal.

"First, we want to apologize to this group for being quoted that dollar amount. That policy which was in its early stages, we believe, was misapplied and it has now been suspended."

In the past, Access Living only had to pay a couple hundred dollars to have seats removed to accommodate their wheelchairs.

Group members were shocked when Amtrak said they would no longer absorb the costs that such a service entails, resulting in a cost roughly 100 times what they were used to.

Ballard said he understand that they are asking for more than is required b the ADA, but that should not prevent them from having equal access.

Andy Weber

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