From Green Right Now Reports

The Illinois Senate voted unanimously Thursday to create the Illinois and Midwest High Speed Rail Commission to help guide the development of high speed trains in Illinois and neighboring states. The vote by this one body is sufficient to create the commission, which will recommend the best government-private structure for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining a high speed rail system.

High speed rail, part of the landscape in other countries (Photo: MHSRA)

High speed rail, part of the landscape in other countries (Photo: MHSRA)

The new passenger rail, which is being seeded by stimulus money, is expected to first connect Chicago with St. Louis, with trains that could go up to 220 miles per hour. At that speed, the travel time between the two cities would be just under two hours, making train travel a much more competitive option.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association, which has been advocating for fast routes between Chicago and several Midwest cities, reported that the new Chicago-St. Louis train link (via Kankakee, Champaign, Decatur and Springfield, Ill.) would create 40,000 jobs and grow Illinois’ “downstate economies” by 1 to 3 percent.

The mass transit project would provide a travel option that would produce fewer carbon emissions per passenger than jet plane travel, and would also help take solo drivers off the road. Once operational, it could take take 200 million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere each year, according to the MHSRA.

The Commission will be composed of 19 members:
10 public members appointed by the Governor;
3 members of the Illinois House of Representatives, 2 appointed by the Speaker of the House and one appointed by the House Minority Leader;
3 members of the Illinois Senate, 2 appointed by the Senate President and one appointed by the Senate Minority Leader
3 ex-officio members as follows:
the Illinois Secretary of Transportation;
the Executive Director of the Illinois Commerce Commission;
the Executive Director of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority

Earlier this week, several mayors and county officials issued an open letter to their fellow elected representatives endorsing  development of a Chicago-St. Louis 220-mph high speed rail line.

“This line would bring our business, research and government capitals within less than 1.5 hours of each other, and open vital new connections to O’Hare Airport,” they wrote.

Those signing the letter include:

  • Jay Dunn, Chairman, Macon County Board
  • Nina Epstein, Mayor of Kankakee
  • Al Larson, Mayor of Schaumburg
  • Robert McCleary, Village President, Savoy
  • Michael McElroy, Mayor of Decatur
  • Martin Moylan, Mayor of Des Plaines
  • Barrett Pedersen, Mayor of Franklin Park
  • Toni Preckwinkle, Alderman, Chicago’s 4th Ward, Democratic Presidential Nominee, Cook County Board
  • Hon. Laurel Prussing, Mayor of Urbana
  • Gerald Schweighart, Mayor of Champaign