Durbin and Quinn Announce Major Agreement to Advance High-Speed Rail in Illinois

Commitment Will Create More Than 6,000 Jobs, Begin Next Phase of Construction on Chicago-St. Louis Corridor

CHICAGO – Work on the next phase of high-speed rail between Chicago and St. Louis is set to begin as the result of a $685 million construction agreement, Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today. The federally funded project will create an estimated 6,200 direct and indirect jobs and move Illinois one step closer to faster trains and improved service along its signature high-speed route. Durbin and Quinn were joined at today’s announcement by railroad workers and suppliers, Union Pacific Railroad officials, and federal, state, and local leaders.


“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 us for generations to come,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said. ”With Chicago as its hub, the Midwest high-speed rail network will create an estimated $23.1 billion in economic activity and create 6,000 jobs over the next ten years. That economic boost is already being felt in and around Alton, where construction began several months ago. The federally funded construction agreement announced today kick starts the next phase of the project and ushers in more than $650 million of construction starting this summer.”


Today’s announcement allows for the construction of new rail track using concrete ties between Dwight and Lincoln, as well as between Alton and the Mississippi River, along with the installation of a modernized signal system between Dwight and Alton. Construction will begin on April 5 and is funded through $1.2 billion in federal funding awarded to Illinois to expand passenger rail. Illinois is showing its financial commitment by providing more than $42 million in state capital funding.


“Today’s agreement marks another major step towards making high-speed rail a reality in Illinois,” said Governor Quinn. “Bringing high-speed rail to Illinois has been a top priority of my administration because of the thousands of jobs and long-term investment it will bring to our state. This important partnership with the Union Pacific Railroad and the Obama administration will boost our efforts to make Illinois the high-speed rail hub of the Midwest.”


“Passenger and freight rail have played a central role in making Chicago and the Midwest a great place to live and work,” said Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “The construction made possible by the agreement announced today will help Illinois achieve a robust 21st Century transportation network that promotes economic growth and helps meet the region’s future mobility needs.”


Construction of the entire Chicago-to-St. Louis line is anticipated to ultimately create and retain 24,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout the state. The first phase of the line – a $98-million upgrade of tracks between Lincoln and Alton – was launched in September, making Illinois the first state to break ground under the federal initiative to develop a Midwest high-speed rail network.


Construction work directly implemented by the UP will be built by members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way and Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen under their national contracts with the railroad. A large majority of workers under these contracts are expected to be hired from Illinois. In addition, more than $650 million of the total $1.2 billion federal grant will go to competitively-selected contractors. To assist firms seeking to become qualified to bid on the work, the UP will host an event after the Chicago Business Opportunity Fair on April 20 at Chicago’s Navy Pier for those interested potential contractors.


The first trains traveling at 110 mph on the Chicago-to-St. Louis line will make their debut between Dwight and Pontiac as early as next year. Upgrades to the entire Dwight-Alton portion of the corridor are expected to be complete by 2014. The state also is conducting a study on the feasibility of bringing 220-mph service to Illinois.


“We are proud to be leaders on a project that will reduce congestion, benefit the environment and spark economic development,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig said. “We will see the returns on our efforts to develop the Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed corridor for years to come.”


In December, the Illinois Department of Transportation started a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement to study the potential for a second set of tracks between Chicago and St. Louis and to identify the preferred route for trains between Chicago and Joliet. Another component is an analysis of the best path of the line through Springfield. The study is expected to be completed in 2012.