Quinn, Durbin announce next phase of high-speed rail construction

By:  Tim Landis
Springfield State Journal-Register

The next phase of high-speed rail construction between St. Louis and Chicago again will skip Springfield while a study continues to try to determine the best route for increased passenger and freight traffic through the city.

Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin announced in Chicago on Tuesday a $685 million agreement to build track upgrades between Lincoln and Dwight and between Alton and the Mississippi River.

A $1.2 billion federal grant is paying for upgrades intended eventually to accommodate train speeds up to 110 mph. The state also has pledged $42 million.

“High-speed rail is more than just an alternative mode of travel — it is a shot in the arm to today’s recovering economy and an investment in infrastructure that will serve generations to come,” Durbin said in a statement.

Work scheduled to begin April 5 along the Union Pacific line will create 6,200 construction and support jobs, Durbin and Quinn estimated.

The next round of high-speed rail work will not affect a study of the 10th Street corridor in Springfield as an alternative to the Third Street line, local officials said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation approved the study at the request of the city of Springfield, Sangamon County and business leaders concerned that additional traffic on Third Street would effectively split the city in two.

Study results are expected soon, said Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter.

“It’s at the decision-making point, and we need to coordinate closely with the state,” Van Meter said.

The first $98 million phase of track upgrades also skipped Springfield, ending just south of Lincoln last fall.

“That’s good, because that’s in keeping with our agreement with the state,” said Van Meter.

Mayor Frank Edwards said he also is satisfied that state officials will await the outcome of the study.

“This doesn’t affect us,” said Edwards.