Last week, I had lunch with the executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, which has its headquarters in Chicago. The association’s dream is to link the entire region with trains that travel 220 miles an hour. Such a network would strengthen Chicago’s position as capital of the Midwest, by drawing cities that now require an overnight trip into commuting range: Urbana-Champaign would be 45 minutes away, St. Louis 90 minutes, Detroit two hours. High-speed trains could make the entire Midwest a suburb of Chicago.
“Several years ago, with ridership on passenger trains continuing to climb in the U.S., I saw an opportunity to bring the rail car manufacturing industry back to the U.S. and back to Illinois,” U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin said. “I spearheaded an effort in Congress to repair Amtrak’s aging fleet of passenger cars, bring rehabilitated cars to Illinois and revive the train car industry in the United States. While a century ago the domestic railcar giant Pullman Company provided a strong manufacturing base in Illinois, today Illinois is home to the nation’s largest rail supply industry. I applaud FRA’s decision to name IDOT as the lead in the multi-state locomotive procurement process and to bring good paying jobs to the United States while advancing cleaner, cheaper, and greener transportation options.”
IDOT was involved last year in a multi-state procurement of the 130 next-generation bi-level rail cars for high-speed service, an effort led by California. That procurement resulted in the selection of Sumitomo/Nippon-Sharyo, which is building the rail cars from its plant in Rochelle, Illinois, including the 88 cars to be used on Midwest high-speed corridors. The Rochelle plant opened in 2012 and has created more than 250 jobs in Illinois.