On Thursday, the Illinois Senate passed a bill creating the Illinois and Midwest High Speed Rail Commission (SB 2571).
The 12-member commission would issue a road map by March 2011 on how best to structure a public-private partnership to design, build and operate a high-speed rail system at speeds of 150 miles per hour and greater. It also would issue recommendations on how to fund the network and integrate the new bullet trains with airports, Amtrak service and public transportation systems throughout the Midwest.
Commercial rail service at speeds of 220 miles per hour operates in Asia and Europe. Such bullet trains have become a priority for many U.S. government leaders. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called for "superfast" train service in Illinois in his State of The State address in January. The Obama administration has thrown its support behind active 220-mph projects in California and Florida.
The bill's passage by the Illinois Senate is the latest in a string of successes that have built strong momentum behind high-speed rail. In addition to the Obama administration's $8 billion in stimulus rail funds, Congress for the first time appropriated $2.5 billion for high-speed rail for this year. The Illinois capital bill contains $400 million for high-speed rail projects, and recent CREATE funding will allow for infrastructure upgrades that will pave the way for high speed rail.
"Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Quinn, Sen. Sandoval and members of the Illinois Senate, our state is positioning itself as a national and regional leader on high speed rail," said Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. "Bullet trains address our crucial need for jobs, infrastructure and green energy."
The Midwest High Speed Rail Association proposes to transform the Midwest into one cohesive, compact economic entity with a network of 220-mph bullet trains, including a St. Louis to Chicago line that would serve Edwardsville, Springfield, Decatur, Champaign, Kankakee, McCormick Place, Downtown Chicago and O'Hare Airport.
An expert economic impact study by the Midwest High Speed Rail Association found that a 220-mph high speed rail link between Chicago and St. Louis via Kankakee, Champaign, Decatur and Springfield would create 40,000 jobs and grow downstate economies by 1 to 3 percent. The project also is estimated to take 200 million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere each year.