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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Illinois to study 220 mph rail service between Chicago, Champaign


The state of Illinois will soon launch a study to analyze 220 mph rail service between Chicago and Champaign, Gov. Pat Quinn announced today at the U.S. High Speed Rail Association’s meeting held in Chicago.

“We want to see what we can do to make Champaign a suburb of Chicago,” he said, adding the trip would take about 50 minutes. “Anytime we can lessen these transportation times, it’s a great opportunity.”

The state will designate an advisory group to oversee the study. Headed by state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Ill.), the advisory group also will include Midwest High Speed Rail Association Executive Director Rick Harnish and Environmental Law and Policy Center Deputy Director Kevin Brubaker, Quinn said.

The study will take about a year to complete.

In the meantime, Illinois will continue to encourage rail-car and locomotive manufacturers to locate plants in the state. Nippon Sharyo, which currently has a plant in Wisconsin, already has committed to building a facility in Rochelle, Ill. Quinn is hopeful that other car and locomotive builders will follow.

“I know some locomotive manufacturers are not happy with Wisconsin’s commitment to high-speed rail, but they’re very happy with our commitment,” he said.

Industry suppliers can count on that commitment to continue. Despite other Midwestern governors who have rejected high-speed rail funds, Illinois plans to continue on a fast track to high-speed rail.

“Governors who don’t have a vision of high-speed rail are not going to deter us in Illinois to get this movement going as fast as possible,” Quinn said. “I don’t think anyone who sees $4 and $5 gallon gasoline should turn their nose up at rail. We need planes, trains and automobiles in this country — not just planes and automobiles.”

In addition to continuing construction on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor so trains can operate at 110 mph, Illinois plans to advance projects between Chicago, Rockford and Dubuque, and Chicago, Iowa City and the Quad Cities. Quinn said he is working hard to convince Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is lukewarm on high-speed rail in his state, of high-speed’s benefits, particularly in Iowa’s university towns. As an example, Quinn references Illinois’ intercity passenger-rail improvements — specifically, more frequent service on three state-supported Amtrak routes — during the past five years.

“We’ve had huge ridership increases, and that’s for trains that are only going 79 mph,” he said. "That shows what the real potential is.”

Angela Cotey

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/2/2011