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Work Begins On High-Speed Rail To St. Louis

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CHICAGO (WBBM) – A new season of re-construction begins Saturday on the rail line between Chicago and St. Louis that Amtrak is transforming into a 110-mile-an-hour corridor.

The goal of faster trains is going to mean short-term delays for riders who intend to use the line over the next six weeks.

Gov. Pat Quinn said that construction crews are starting on the segment between Lincoln and Bloomington.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports

Upgrading the line is not inexpensive.

“This construction season it’s going to be about $685 million,” said Quinn, who said he expects the work to create 6,000 construction jobs.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that for the next week, between April 16 and 24 and again between May 1 and 9, buses will substitute for four daily Amtrak “Lincoln Service” round trips between Bloomington and St. Louis and the long-distance Texas Eagle will be detoured, running between Chicago and St. Louis non-stop.

Officials from the Union Pacific R.R., which owns the line, said that construction crews this year expect to install 190 miles of new track, 250,000 of the concrete ties that hold the rails in place, 600,000 tons of crushed rock and improved protection at 92 road crossings.

High-speed service on an 18-mile segment between Dwight and Pontiac is expected to begin next year. The line between Dwight and St. Louis is expected to be upgraded in its entirety by 2014. Studies are being conducted to determine which of three routes will be used between Chicago and Dwight, with a decision expected next year.

Quinn said he would like to see higher-speed corridors running between Chicago and a number of other Midwestern cities, including Cleveland, Detroit and Indianapolis.

The deadline to apply for redistribution $2.4 billion in federal high speed rail grants rejected by the state of Florida is Monday. Wisconsin has indicated that it will seek $150 million to upgrade the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha service to 110 mile an hour standards. Missouri has indicated it will seek $937 million.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — who in December rejected $810 million that had been earmarked to extend the Hiawatha service to Madison — said Tuesday that he expects to file a joint application with Illinois, Michigan and Missouri to upgrade existing service, although Quinn said he was unaware of any such joint application.

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