Quinn wants more for rail

Published: 5/22/2009 12:24 PM

SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Pat Quinn joined suburban lawmakers Friday to demand high-speed rail funding be added to the $29 billion construction plan.

Quinn wants the General Assembly's support on high-speed rail, which President Barack Obama's federal stimulus plan will match. The plan allocates up to $8 billion nationwide for high-speed rail. In addition, President Obama has allocated $5 billion over the next five years toward a high-speed rail grant program.

"I'm asking the legislature to follow President Obama's lead and invest in the growth and efficiency for transportation in Illinois by appropriating funds in the capital bill needed to make high-speed rail a reality," Quinn told reporters outside his office.

The St. Louis-Chicago route is the signature high-speed rail route for Illinois with supporters envisioning trains zipping across the state daily between the two cities.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime," said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig.

Hannig had meetings with House Democrat previously to see what projects they needed included in the plan. State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat who chairs a House rail industry committee, asked for $1 billion for rail that was not included in the $29 billion plan House members approved Thursday. Nekritz now has the governor backing her to get at least part of the funding.

Quinn said the $400 million in funding for high-speed rail must be included in the construction plan before he approves it. He said a follow-up to the $29 billion plan is expected next week.

"I am confident we are going to get everything included that we want," said Quinn.

A total investment of $2.7 billion for the St. Louis-Chicago corridor could create and retain approximately 24,000 jobs, supporters said.

Union Pacific and IDOT will develop a rail infrastructure and safety plan to outline how passenger trains will operate safely at 110 mph and UP's freight trains will operate safely and efficiently.