It's been quite a year for passenger rail in the Midwest, and it just got even better. Yesterday, the Federal Railroad Administration issued two Records of Decision that open the door further for improved passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Louis.
In one of the decisions, the FRA selected the Metra Rock Island Corridor as the most efficient route between Joliet and Chicago. And in the other, the FRA chose a consolidated route along 10th Street through Springfield.
With these decisions, required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Chicago-St. Louis high-speed rail corridor is eligible to compete for future federal funding.
That could mean new trains, better on-time performance, and improved speed, frequency, and reliability along this increasingly popular line. The right upgrades will ultimately reduce travel time between these two important cities to less than four hours.
This represents a major step forward, both for the State of Illinois and the Midwest as a whole. In addition to giving travelers a better, faster rail experience, future enhancements to the Midwest Regional Rail Network will also create jobs and strengthen the region’s manufacturing base.
We've already seen rail manufacturing in Illinois ramping up and adding jobs thanks to increasing demand for passenger rail. These Records of Decision represent a potential boost for Midwestern suppliers of rail materials and equipment and the workers they employ.
As FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo said, “Today’s decisions identify the alignment for the next-generation of Chicago-St. Louis service. It's another major win for the Midwest states as they move forward with their vision to connect 40 of their largest cities with fast, frequent, and reliable rail service.”
The Illinois DOT has received more than $1.4 billion in federal funds to develop high-speed rail service between Chicago and St. Louis and build the next generation of American-made trains. Included in these investments are track, equipment, and signaling improvements for 110 mph passenger rail service, as well as station enhancements.
A new multi-modal train station in Normal and promise of 110-mph service has already attracted more than $200 million in private investments to the downtown Normal area, an example of how rail investment attracts economic growth. Future rail investments along the Chicago to St. Louis corridor will spur additional economic activity across Illinois in towns where new or newly-renovated stations are under development or in the planning stages.It's all part of President Obama's vision for high-speed rail in America. It's a vision we share here at DOT, and I'm happy to see the FRA's latest action helping push that vision ever closer to reality.