Would linking Chicago to Champaign-Urbana, where one of the state's signature universities is located, improve the economy by creating jobs and increasing access to higher education?
Gov. Pat Quinn wants to know, and on Thursday he announced a study to find answers.
"Illinois is leading the nation with our work to expand high-speed and passenger rail," he said at a meeting in Chicago with the U.S. High Speed Rail Association.
"This study will provide greater insight into how we can make 220-mph rail service a reality. An expanded and improved rail network will boost our position in the global economy and create thousands of jobs."
A high-speed train from Chicago to Champaign-Urbana in less than an hour could transform the U of I into a "superpower university," said University of Illinois President Michael Hogan.
The study -- with findings to be presented to the governor in late 2012 -- will explore the potential costs and benefits of establishing service between O'Hare International Airport, downtown Chicago, McCormick Place, and Champaign-Urbana.
It will also look at extending the corridor in the region to cities south of Champaign-Urbana, including St. Louis and Indianapolis.