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Illinois HSR project now in motion

The Illinois Department of Transportation has negotiated an agreement with Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad that will let the state release $1.1 billion in federal grants for a high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis. Bruce Rushton of the Springfield, Illinois State Journal-Register explains that “billions of dollars in federal grants for high-speed rail had been tied up across the nation” because states had to negotiate with private rail companies to make sure there will enough room on the train tracks for both rail and passenger trains.

This issue should be familiar to anyone who has taken long-distance Amtrak trip. Amtrak, a government owned corporation, is at the mercy of private rail companies, meaning a company like Union Pacific Railroad can decide to hold up a passenger train for hours in order to make a freight train go through. The agreement ensures that a train between Chicago and St. Louis will take 4 1/2 hours, beginning in 2014. Illinois is apparently the first state that will successfully release grant money that was provided by U.S. Transportation Department via the stimulus bill.

In related Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail news, the Milwaukee Biz Times reports that some of the project’s money comes out of federal funding rejected by Wisconsin governor-elect Scott Walker. States like Illinois will benefit from an increase in federal grants if states like Wisconsin and Ohio continue to reject federal money.

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