Study Finds High Speed Rail Costly, but Feasible

True high speed rail operations in the Midwest would be costly to implement but are feasible and might even cover operating costs once implemented.

That was the conclusion of a study conducted by the University of Illinois’ Rail Transportation and Engineering Center and sponsored by the State of Illinois.

The study said 220 mph service linking Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and downtown St. Louis could carry as many as 15 million travelers a year. The study found that it would cost $20 billion to construct HSR right-of-way in Illinois alone.

The study, released late last month, can be accessed via this link.

“Rapid, comfortable, low-cost transportation between these urban areas would boost the Illinois economy, create jobs, unite people in the region, enhance personal mobility, increase international competitiveness and provide safe, modern, sustainable transportation for future generations,” the study said.

“This is not a lot in terms of what we’re going to get out of it,” said Richard Harnish, executive director of Chicago-base Midwest High Speed Rail Association, an ardent supporter of high-speed rail.  “It’s absolutely essential if we’re going to remain a strong economic region.”

Illinois is spending $1.5 billion in federal and state money to upgrade service between Joliet and Alton, which will allow top speeds of 110 mph. Higher-speed rail upgrades are currently under way in Michigan.

The study concluded that California’s “blended” approach to high speed rail is an option in the Midwest.

“An incremental or blended approach completed over a longer time period could also reduce initial capital costs and provide other nearer-term transportation benefits, while simultaneously improving intercity transportation quality and travel times,” the study said.

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