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Illinois Moves Ahead With High-Speed Rail Plans

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Railroad Crossing

(CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Illinois came a step closer to high-speed rail on Tuesday, with a project that is bringing 6,000 new jobs.

Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin announced that construction will soon start on phase two of the Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail corridor, where trains will run 110 miles per hour.

“We have to be very, very strong in the Midwest about getting people around by fast trains,” Quinn said. “But we have to build it and that’s what we’re celebrating today.”

As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, construction of the high-speed rail project began last year in downstate Alton.

Phase two, a $685 million agreement using federal funds, starts April 5. It involves work from Dwight to Lincoln and Alton to the Mississippi River.

The hope is to connect all the way from St. Louis to Chicago by 2014.

After last fall’s elections, Florida and Wisconsin rejected federal money for similar projects, calling them a government boondoggle.

“The governors of these other states that have given up their money can stand and wave at our trains rolling by,” Durbin said. “We’re going to move people and we’re going to move freight and set a standard for America.”

Representatives from Union Pacific Railroad said they expect to hire a majority of union workers from Illinois. They’ll also host a fair at Navy Pier on April 20, seeking potential contractors for the project.

Quinn said that, in the end, construction of the entire Chicago-to-St. Louis line might bring up to 24,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout the state.

Officials estimate told the high-speed trains will shave about 90 minutes off the trip from Chicago to St. Louis once the project is completed.

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