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Illinois lawmakers back Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed train

(The following story by Chris Essig appeared on the The Quad-City Times website on May 6, 2010.)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers signaled their support for a 220-mph high-speed passenger train that could someday connect Chicago and St. Louis.

On Thursday, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution creating the Illinois and Midwest High-Speed Rail Commission, which will recommend ways to design, build and maintain the train route. Members of the commission will be appointed by the governor and lawmakers.

Proponents hope high-speed rail will bring thousands of jobs to the state, as well as cut down travel time between stops in Illinois.

Earlier in the week, mayors from across the state circulated a letter to lawmakers showing their support for high-speed rail. Michael McElroy, of Decatur, was among a handful of mayors who signed the letter.

The mayors also are asking Gov. Pat Quinn to allocate $10 million in capital construction funds to cover “engineering and environmental studies” to help get the project up and running.

In January, Illinois was awarded $1.2 billion from the federal government for a high-speed rail project that would cut travel times on the route by about 90 minutes. The resolution seeks to build on that program by pushing for even faster trains.

Rather than following the current route that roughly parallels Interstate 55, the proposed 220-mph route would go from St. Louis to Springfield, over to Decatur, then to Champaign and up to Chicago.

The legislation is Senate Resolution 806.

Friday, May 7, 2010

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