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St. Louis-Chicago high-speed rail work to begin in September

(The following appeared on the Kansas City Star website on July 22, 2010.)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Track upgrades needed to increase passenger train speeds and cut travel time between St. Louis and Chicago will begin in early September, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced Tuesday.

Funded by federal stimulus dollars, the $98 million project will include new rails and concrete ties along 90 miles of Union Pacific track from just north of Alton to just south of Springfield, and another segment just north of Springfield to south of Lincoln. The work could be completed by year’s end, state officials said.

Quinn said the project would put an estimated 900 people to work and would be a major step toward faster Amtrak service between St. Louis and Chicago. When improvements to the corridor are complete, travel time between the two cities will be cut to four hours, making Illinois “the high-speed rail hub of the Midwest,” the governor said.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Josh Kauffmann said final grant details are being worked out by officials of IDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration.

President Obama’s administration announced in January that Illinois would get $1.8 billion for high-speed passenger rail projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The allocation included $1.1 billion for the St. Louis-Chicago corridor.

The overall project will include new locomotives and passenger cars, rebuilding of track, added signal devices at grade crossings and state-of-the-art signal technology. The improvements are expected to allow trains to travel at up to 110 mph.

Illinois was one of three states to get more than $1 billion in stimulus money for high-speed rail. Nationwide, 31 states will receive about $8 billion.

A study is under way to determine the best high-speed rail route through Springfield.

Other stimulus dollars will fund an environmental impact study for a second track along the same route to increase daily frequencies and other projects that will help eliminate bottlenecks and delays.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

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