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CHICAGO (CBS/AP) – The state of Illinois will spend $1.25 million to study whether bullet trains could one day whisk passengers between Chicago and Champaign-Urbana in less than an hour.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn made the announcement Thursday at a meeting of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association in Chicago.
Quinn said the University of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation and a special advisory group will study the possibility of a 220-mph passenger rail service.
The governor said expanding rail service would create thousands of jobs and improve Illinois’ position in the global economy.
“Illinois is leading the nation with our work to expand high-speed and passenger rail,” Quinn said in a statement.
The study will examine costs and benefits of high-speed rail service between O’Hare International Airport, downtown Chicago, McCormick Place and Champaign-Urbana. It also would explore extending the line to cities beyond Champaign-Urbana, including St. Louis and Indianapolis.
The findings would be presented to Quinn in late 2012.
Members appointed to an advisory group that will assist with the study are transportation experts, rail advocates, labor leaders and regional planners.
“With this historic investment in bullet train planning, Illinois is making a down payment on a faster and cleaner transportation system that’s more friendly to families as well as business,” one of the appointees, Rick Harnish of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, said in a statement.
Illinois already is receiving substantial funds from the federal government to upgrade rail lines linking Chicago and St. Louis. The current plan calls for passenger trains to go from their current maximum speed of 79 mph to 110 mph.
The type of rail service discussed this week would be faster and in line with some European countries and Japan.
Critics say the cost of developing high-speed rail nationwide isn’t worth it. Some states have even declined federal grants, given the matching costs.
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