Illinois wins high-speed rail funds returned by Florida - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Illinois wins high-speed rail funds returned by Florida

The Chicago-to-St. Louis higher-speed rail line got a boost on Wednesday when Illinois was granted $186 million of the $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funding Florida turned down this past spring. This week, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation made available $400 million of those funds to other states through an application process.  

Despite efforts from U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to convince Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) not to turn down the project, the funds were sent back to U.S. DOT by the governor, who stated that it was a bad deal for tax-payers. Mr. Mica has said the “federal government has done everything” it can, including agreeing to put up 90 percent of the rail link’s financing, and that it “defies logic” that Gov. Scott would cancel the rail line before the state had received bids on the project (according to a New York Times article)

Enter Illinois.

“Illinois will be able to use this funding to upgrade an important segment of the Chicago to St. Louis corridor,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a co-chair and founding member of the Bi-Cameral High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus. “Improvements to this route will improve on-time performance, increase travel speeds, and create jobs that our state badly needs.  

“This project will create nearly 6,000 direct and indirect jobs, decrease delays, and improve performance,” added U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) “High-speed rail projects like this one will ensure that Illinois remains at the center of the nation’s infrastructure network, attracting more jobs and making us more economically competitive.” 

Last month, Sens. Durbin and Kirk led a group of Illinois Congressional delegation members in expressing support for Illinois’ application for the federal high-speed rail funding rejected by the governor of Florida. In their letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, the members stressed the importance of the Chicago to St. Louis route as the backbone of the Midwest passenger rail system. Members signing on to that letter included: Durbin, Kirk, U.S. representatives Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) 

The $186 million may be the beginning for re-allocated funds going out to other states. Just $400 million of the $2.4 billion that state was awarded has been reallocated thus far, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, and Illinois has other grant applications pending with the DOT, including another $263 million for new rail cars. Additionally, late Friday, Secy. LaHood sent out an advisory that he will make major announcements on Monday in New York and Detroit about high-speed intercity passenger rail. Stay tuned!  

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