CHICAGO – May 4, 2011. U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) joined Governor Pat Quinn in announcing that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $186 million in high speed rail funding to finance track and other improvements on the Chicago to St. Louis corridor between Dwight and Joliet. Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Transportation notified Congressional Appropriators that they have reprogrammed $400 million of the $2 billion in funding that was rejected by the governor of Florida.
“Illinois will be able to use this funding to upgrade an important segment of the Chicago to St. Louis corridor,” said Durbin, a Co-Chair and founding member of the Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus. “Improvements to this route will improve on-time performance, increase travel speeds and create jobs that our state badly needs.
“This project will create nearly 6,000 direct and indirect jobs, decrease delays and improve performance,” U.S. Senator Mark Kirk said. “High speed rail projects like this one will ensure that Illinois remains at the center of the nation’s infrastructure network, attracting more jobs and making us more economically competitive.”
“Today’s announcement is an important step toward faster trains and even better rail service on the route between Chicago and St. Louis, ultimately making Illinois the Midwest’s hub for high-speed rail,” Governor Quinn said. “We are committed to quickly turning federal investment in rail into jobs and economic development across the state. This latest award is another example of our ongoing efforts to lead the nation in development of high-speed rail.”
Illinois’ application for rejected Florida funding included two other high speed rail projects that are still eligible for funding. The other projects requested are: A multi-state $806.8 million application for new train cars and locomotives equipment, including $262.8 million for new train cars to operate along several Illinois corridors and $1 million for preliminary engineering and environmental work on a new station in East St. Louis, Illinois.
Last month, Durbin and Kirk led a group of Illinois Congressional Delegation members in expressing support for Illinois’ application for the federal funding for high speed rail projects that was rejected by the governor of Florida. In their letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, the members stressed the importance of the Chicago to St. Louis route as the backbone of the Midwest passenger rail system. Members signing on to that letter included: Durbin, Kirk, Representatives Jerry Costello (D-IL), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL).
“We believe Illinois offers the greatest opportunity for your Department to enhance mobility, reduce reliance on foreign oil, lessen congestion and provide steady employment in a region hard hit by job loss,” wrote the members. “The Midwest rail system, with Chicago as its hub, could provide 3,000 miles of high speed rail service and serve 90 percent of the 60.3 million people living in its nine-state region. A significant federal investment into this region will create a rail system that could carry nearly as much traffic as regional air service.”
One year ago, the entire Illinois Congressional delegation wrote to LaHood to communicate their belief that Illinois provides the best opportunity to invest in high speed rail. Since then, the Department of Transportation has awarded over $1.4 billion in high speed rail funding to Illinois, including funding for the CREATE project, new rail service from Chicago to the Quad Cities and implementing 110 mph service on the Chicago to St. Louis line. Last December, Illinois received $42.3 million in high speed rail funding that was rejected by the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin.