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Officials hail beginning of high-speed rail construction

(The following story by Terry Hillig appeared on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website on September 17, 2010.)

ALTON, Ill. — Gov. Pat Quinn and other state and local officials gathered in Alton Friday to celebrate the start of the first of several projects that will increase the speed of passenger rail service between St. Louis and Chicago.

Quinn said the project would bolster economic recovery, create jobs. promote economic development and help make Illinois the high-speed rail hub of the Midwest.

The initial $98 million project will upgrade 90 miles of Union Pacific track between Alton and Lincoln, Ill. Officials said it was the first of many high-speed rail improvements around the country that are being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Illinois got $1.1 billion of Recovery Act funding for St. Louis-Chicago upgrades that will allow speeds of up to 110 mph and cut travel time between the two cities to less than four hours.

Work on the tracks between Alton and Springfield began several weeks ago and is expected to be completed by the end of December, weather permitting. Work on the Springfield-Lincoln segment will follow. A study is under way to determine the best way to route high-speed rail traffic through Springfield.

In January, Illinois was awarded more than $1.2 billion dollars for high-speed rail improvements, including $1.25 million for an environmental impact statement on a second track along the corridor that would allow increased travel frequencies. The state is looking for additional funding for a feasibility study of possible 220-mph rail service.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

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