CHICAGO – May 9, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn joined with U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) in announcing that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $268 million in high speed rail funding to Illinois for the purchase of 48 new passenger rail cars and 7 locomotives that will be equipped to travel at high speeds.
Today’s funding comes from the $2 billion that was rejected by the governor of Florida earlier this year. It is in addition to the $186 million announced last week to finance track and other improvements on the Chicago to St. Louis corridor between Dwight and Joliet. Illinois will also benefit from another $210 million in funding for high speed rail improvements within the Chicago Hub Network.
“High speed rail funding is more than just creating short-term construction jobs. Every dollar we spend on rail produces $3 in economic output,” said Durbin, a Co-Chair and founding member of the Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus. “With today’s announcement, we are continuing to invest in infrastructure that will keep the businesses we have and attract new businesses and industries to Illinois in the future. I hope these new passenger rail cars will be built right here in our state.”
“Investing in track upgrades is only one part of implementing high speed rail projects,” said Kirk. “These funds will be used to purchase new railcars and equipment for eight corridors serving Illinois and neighboring states, and move forward efforts to replace a bridge over the Mississippi River. Illinois’ strong position as a rail hub will continue with these needed resources.”
“Illinois is committed to building an integrated, regional high-speed rail network and this investment in rail cars will continue to advance this goal,” said Governor Quinn. “As the hub of the Midwest’s high-speed rail system, we will continue to utilize federal and state dollars to create jobs, ensuring that fast, reliable and clean rail transportation is a reality and continuing our economic recovery.”
The new rail cars and locomotives will replace aging and obsolete Amtrak equipment with new cars that add capacity to help accommodate projected increases in ridership, improve operational reliability, reduce operating costs, achieve a good state of repair and promote standardization of rail cars. Two additional projects that will benefit travelers to and from Chicago received a total of $210 million today:
- Track improvements along the Chicago to Detroit route – $196.5 million to develop the Michigan-Kalamazoo-Dearborn service by rehabilitating track and signal systems, bringing trains up to speeds of 110 mph on a 235-mile section of the Chicago to Detroit corridor, reducing trip times by 30 minutes.
- Bridge Replacement on the Chicago to St. Louis route – $13.5 million to advance the design of a new bridge over the Mississippi River on the Chicago to St. Louis Corridor, replacing a bridge – Merchant’s Bridge – built in the 1890s.
Last month, Durbin and Kirk led a group of Illinois Congressional Delegation members in expressing support for Illinois’ application for the federal funding for high speed rail projects that was rejected by the governor of Florida. In their letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, the members stressed the importance of the Chicago to St. Louis route as the backbone of the Midwest passenger rail system. Members signing on to that letter included: Durbin, Kirk, Representatives Jerry Costello (D-IL), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL).
One year ago, the entire Illinois Congressional delegation wrote to LaHood to communicate their belief that Illinois provides the best opportunity to invest in high speed rail. Since then, the Department of Transportation has awarded over $1.4 billion in high speed rail funding to Illinois, including funding for the CREATE project, new rail service from Chicago to the Quad Cities and implementing 110 mph service on the Chicago to St. Louis line. Last December, Illinois received $42.3 million in high speed rail funding that was rejected by the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin.
In 2009, Durbin, Kirk and all members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation asked the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, to support their effort to revive the passenger rail car manufacturing industry in Illinois. The domestic railcar giant Pullman Company provided a strong manufacturing base for over a hundred years in Illinois, providing rail cars that are still on the tracks today. But those companies have long since closed their doors and left the business of making passenger rail cars, due in part, to years of underinvestment in the U.S. and increased investment by European countries.