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Illinois high speed railway commission hopeful U.S. House passes infrastructure bill

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 12:47 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The livelihoods of Americans including Illinoisans who feel disconnected from major metropolitan areas is potentially on the line with our nation’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

The bill’s fate is currently in the U.S. House where members are expected to vote on it later this month.

In addition to money apportioned for roadways and bridges, the bill calls for $66 billion in passenger and freight rail.

Republican Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois, who also served in the Illinois state legislature, says expanding high speed rail is something the state has explored for decades.

“We’re talking about an efficient way to move passengers from our major metropolitan areas,” says Rep. Bost. “I support that, but it needs to be in a true infrastructure bill. Not all these sidebars.”

Bost says he intends on voting against the infrastructure bill despite both Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth voting in support of the measure in mid-August.

But, Illinois state Representative David Vella says Illinois needs the infrastructure money.

“A- it’s good for the environment, but B- Covid hit Illinois pretty hard,” says Vella. “So, we had great plans for a network of trains. This money would help us to keep that going.”

In addition to any money Illinois may receive if the infrastructure bill passes, Vella says the state has $275 million currently in the budget to set up rail from Rockford, which is in his district, to Chicago.

It’s a move that’s part of Illinois’ overall plan to increase access to high speed rail across the state. Earlier this year, a bill calling for a high speed railway commission to establish a statewide plan for high speed rail was introduced here at the Capitol.

By late June, it was sent to the governor’s desk for his signature.

In early August, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed it. Vella says the next step is surveying where to put train stations with actual service beginning the earliest by late 2024.

Under the high speed railway commission’s statewide plan, members are also looking into how to establish a rail line and feeder network connecting St. Louis and Chicago.

In addition to Rockford, the commission wants rail lines to include existing Amtrak and Metra tracks in Peoria, Moline, and Decatur.

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