CHICAGO (CBS) — A 220 mph line to Champaign-Urbana is the latest proposal for high-speed rail in Illinois.
Meanwhile, a faith-based group is seeking to make sure construction of an approved line that will run from Chicago to St. Louis benefits the communities the line will serve.
Currently, the drive takes two to three hours.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday that the State of Illinois will spend $1.25 million to study the idea.
Quinn said the University of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation and a special advisory group will conduct the study on 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.
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“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.
Group: Help Community While Building Line To St. Louis
Meanwhile, the state is already 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.
WBBM Newsradio 780’s Brian Seay the Springfield-based Faith Coalition for the Common Good is asking government and business leaders to allocate money towards community-based initiatives as part of that project.
“What we’re saying is, with the multi-billion dollar project, is to go in and…reallocate the monies that are already there,” said coalition President T. Ray McJunkins.
McJunkins says he has sat down with faith-based groups throughout Illinois to come up with a list of seven initiatives aimed at helping communities benefit from the construction, which is set to hit Springfield and eventually work its way toward Chicago.
The group’s top priority is keeping jobs local.
“We will not tolerate…Union Pacific or IDOT bringing in workers from out of state to do what our local businesses should be doing,” McJunkins said outside the Amtrak station in Springfield. “We want job opportunities to be available for people of color and women as well. And we would like IDOT and Union Pacific to put in the contract minority goals of 30 percent.”
The group also wants relocation assistance for people who are displaced by the new railway, as well as green space initiatives along the tracks and support for small businesses along the tracks.
McJunkins says this won’t cost any more money. Rather, the idea is to reallocate money already allotted to the project towards the group’s initiatives. He says Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has supported the idea and he’s reaching out to U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Representatives from McJunkins’ group will meet with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood next week.
McJunkins says while the idea started in Springfield, he hopes LaHood will consider using it as a national model for states working on high speed rail.
“Then all cities that are affected can use this same model, rather than reinventing the wheel,” he said.
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