Illinois Governor “very excited” about high-speed rail

July 12, 2018

While visiting Champaign-Urbana last week, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said he was “very excited” about the prospect of high-speed rail in the state and around the Midwest.

Home to the University of Illinois and a vibrant research community, Champaign-Urbana should be well-connected to Chicago, the Midwest, and the world.

Yet, the Midwest is full of communities like Champaign-Urbana that are unable to reach their full potential because of a lack of transportation options. Fast, frequent, reliable trains unlock this potential, and we applaud the Governor’s commitment to high-speed rail.

United Airlines recently announced it will discontinue service to Champaign, leaving American Airlines as the only air carrier. These short flights are inefficient and expensive for both passengers and airlines, so it’s no surprise United doesn’t want to operate them.

Amtrak offers three trains each day with service to Chicago, but they often suffer long delays from freight train interference by track owner Canadian National. Even when running on schedule, these trains are 30 minutes slower than driving.

High-speed trains would put Champaign-Urbana only 45 minutes away from downtown Chicago.

High-speed rail would put Chicago and the rest of the world at Champaign’s fingertips. A 2013 study by the University of Illinois and the Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) found that 220-mph high-speed trains would put Champaign only 45 minutes from downtown Chicago, and 55 minutes from O’Hare International Airport.

This journey, about 130 miles, would make an ideal initial segment in a Midwest high-speed network. By starting on the high-speed line and continuing on existing track, trains could reach places like Springfield, St. Louis and Indianapolis faster and more often.

The study found that a completed 220-mph line from Chicago to St. Louis via Champaign would generate an operating profit, which should be good news to the private investors Governor Rauner hopes to attract to build the system.

To help attract this private capital, Governor Rauner and IDOT need to prepare an investment-grade ridership and business analysis of a 220-mph line. A resolution urging them to do just that recently passed the Illinois Senate and is awaiting action in the House. With the Governor’s statement backing this resolution, we look forward to working with IDOT and other agencies to plan the Midwest’s first high-speed line.

Take action

This first high-speed line needs to be part of a comprehensive rail network. Tell Governor Rauner and your elected officials to begin working on a bold plan for a statewide network of trains that form the heart of the Midwest's high-speed network.

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Midwest High Speed Rail Association Annual Demographic Survey