High-speed rail plan to connect Chicago to St. Louis moves forward

Illinois will begin construction on a project that will connect Chicago to St. Louis through high-speed rail. The $685 million federally funded project is set to move forward now that the federal government and Union Pacific railroad have finalized the terms of their partnership agreement. The project is expected to create 6,200 direct and indirect jobs and make Illinois the high-speed rail hub for the Midwest.

Construction will begin on April 5 and is funded through $1.2 billion in federal grants awarded to Illinois to expand passenger rail. By starting construction now, the state will be able to create jobs through the summer construction season. Illinois is also providing more than $42 million in state funding. The high-speed rail network is expected to create an estimated $23.1 billion in economic activity over the next ten years.

Construction of the entire Chicago-to-St. Louis line is anticipated to ultimately create and retain 24,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout the state. The first phase of the line was launched in September. The first trains traveling at 110 mph on the Chicago-to-St. Louis line will make their debut between Dwight and Pontiac as early as next year.

The Illinois project is also important for being one of the first to move forward successfully and break ground in the Midwest. Governors in Ohio and Wisconsin have chosen to reject federal funding for high speed rail projects creating gaps in what could be a rail network between the Midwest and the Northeast Corridor.

“We are proud to be leaders on a project that will reduce congestion, benefit the environment and spark economic development,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig said. “We will see the returns on our efforts to develop the Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed corridor for years to come.”