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December 22, 2010

State and Federal Officials Announce Historic High-Speed Rail Agreement for Illinois
Cooperative Agreement Advances Construction and Safety Improvements on Chicago to St. Louis Corridor; Will Create More Than 5,000 Jobs

CHICAGO – Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig today announced that a historic public-private partnership agreement on high-speed rail development is in place to bring Illinois one giant step closer to achieving high-speed passenger service between Chicago and St. Louis by 2014.

Governor Pat Quinn, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood together praised the signing of the historic Cooperative Agreement by the federal government, state government, Union Pacific Railroad, and Amtrak as a crucial advance in the development of a planned high-speed passenger rail network that will serve Illinois and the Midwest region.

“Clearly, the leadership, perseverance and commitment of Governor Quinn, Senator Durbin, and our private sector partners, has vaulted Illinois into the lead on the development of high-speed rail,” Secretary Hannig said. “This announcement is about more than just an historic achievement for Illinois and the Midwest. It is a celebration of the kind of partnership and vision that is creating jobs now and providing needed access to a crucial regional transportation alternative.”

In September 2010, Governor Quinn announced that Illinois had become the first state in the nation to begin high-speed rail construction through an initial agreement to upgrade 90 miles of track between Alton and Lincoln. With the full Cooperative Agreement now in place, construction will continue in early spring from just south of Lincoln to Dwight.   This phase of work is expected to conclude next fall.

The next step would then be the installation of new, enhanced grade crossing warning protection.  The public can expect to enjoy its first taste of 110 mile-per-hour train service when a 20-mile segment between Dwight and Pontiac is completed in 2012.  Procurement of new cars and locomotives, as well as station upgrades, will be other facets of the project completed under the Cooperative Agreement.

“It’s a wonderful day for Illinoisans as we celebrate a milestone achievement towards becoming the first state in the nation to bring high-speed rail to fruition,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “We applaud the cooperation and hard work of all participating agencies to bring high-speed rail service, thousands of jobs, and economic growth to communities across the state.”

“I'm proud that Illinois continues to lead the country in its pursuit of high-speed rail service.  This agreement marks one more milestone in our quest to make safe, reliable, high-speed rail service a reality in just a handful of years,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.  “I want to commend Governor Pat Quinn and IDOT Sec. Gary Hannig for their efforts to keep the Chicago-St. Louis corridor on track, while other states have fallen behind.  The benefits of staying on deadline are great: as the project advances, more jobs will be created and, with each step, we’re closer to making Illinois more competitive in the 21st century global economy.”

The Cooperative Agreement also outlines current plans for 110-mph high-speed rail service upon the completion of the construction that began in September. The agreement calls for a total of five daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis, including three daily high-speed round trips in the initial 2014 schedule — and confirms on-time performance expectations of at least 80 percent for the service. Expected reductions in travel time of as much as 48 minutes between Chicago and St. Louis are also noted in the agreement, shortening the trip between the two cities to as little as 4 hours, 32 minutes. Amtrak operates passenger rail service along the route in cooperation with Union Pacific, which owns the track. 

“Congratulations to the State of Illinois, Union Pacific Railroad, and Amtrak,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “This agreement will ensure a strong performance for the operation of high-speed passenger trains, while simultaneously protecting, preserving and improving our world-class rail freight system.”

"Our priority in working out this agreement was to protect Union Pacific's ability to provide the exceptional freight service our customers need and expect, while helping public agencies invest in improved passenger service," said Jim Young, Union Pacific chairman and chief executive officer. "This agreement allows us to deliver on those customer commitments."

In January 2010, the Obama administration awarded Illinois more than $1.2 billion in federal stimulus funds for high-speed passenger rail projects, including corridor improvements on Illinois’ signature route: Chicago to St. Louis.

For more information on Illinois and the other Midwestern states regarding high-speed rail, go to MidwestRail.org.


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