Illinois to Study Feasibility of High-Speed Rail

Study will look at 220-mph passenger-rail service between Chicago and Urbana-Champaign.

The University of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation and an advisory group will study the feasibility of 220-mile-per-hour passenger-rail service between Chicago and Urbana-Champaign.

The study also will look at the possibility of extending the rail line to other cities in the Midwest.

The study will complement the ongoing construction of a regional 110-mile-per-hour network that will connect Chicago to 40 cities in the Midwest, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn noted at the U.S. High Speed Rail Association's conference in Chicago earlier this month.

"Illinois is leading the nation with our work to expand high-speed and passenger rail," Quinn said. "This study will provide greater insight into how we can make 220-mph rail service a reality. An expanded and improved rail network will boost our position in the global economy and create thousands of jobs."

The study will explore the potential costs and benefits of establishing 220-mph service between O'Hare International Airport, downtown Chicago, McCormick Place and Champaign-Urbana, Quinn said.

It also will look at extending the rail corridor in the region to cities south of Champaign-Urbana, including St. Louis and Indianapolis.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Christopher Barkan, director of the school's Railroad Engineering Program, will lead the study.

The study's advisory group will include state lawmakers, transportation experts, labor leaders, regional planners and rail advocates.

The study will offer recommendations on the rail corridor's location; ridership projections; economic impacts; and construction costs and financing options.

The study, financed by a $1.25 million contribution from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program, is expected to be complete in late 2012.

Last year, the Illinois Department of Transportation broke ground on a 110-mph passenger-rail corridor between Chicago and St. Louis. The U.S. Department of Transportation in May doled out $268.2 million to purchase 48 passenger-rail cars and seven locomotives for the Illinois rail corridor and other corridors in the Midwest.

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