IDOT Intends to Finish High-Speed Rail Project

Despite a budget stalemate and the desire of the governor to reduce spending on Amtrak service, the Illinois Department of Transportation expects to spend all of the $1.1 billion in federal funds it has been awarded to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis corridor to higher speed rail.

IDOT faces a Sept. 30, 2017, deadline to spend the money or else return to the federal government what it has not spent.

IDOTDuring a meeting in Lockport, Illinois, this week, IDOT officials said the budget standoff between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly won’t affect work on the high-speed rail project.

Scott Speegle, IDOT’s passenger rail marketing manager, said the department continues to work with the Federal Railroad Administration on the project and intends to meet the 2017 deadline.

Speegle spoke at the Gladys Fox Museum at the invitation of the Blackhawk Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

The high-speed rail program began in 2010 and involves upgrading the corridor in some places to a 110 mph top speed.

Illinois is providing $850 million of the cost of the $1.95 million project, which includes $637 million for track and structure improvements; $194 million for grade crossings, fencing and bridge improvements; and $609 million for rolling stock and equipment.

“I don’t think it’s a secret, certainly not to most folks, but right now we’re in some respects in a holding pattern primarily due to the [state’s] budget and financial situation,” Speegle said in reference to the budget fight.

Also in limbo are other rail and station improvement projects, including an extension of Amtrak service from Chicago to Rockford and the Quad Cities region.

“None have been canceled, but until funding is identified, they probably won’t be moving forward at this point any time soon,” Speegle said.

The Chicago-St. Louis corridor has 11 stations and is served by four daily Lincoln Service roundtrips and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

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