The project, to be completed by December, will create jobs and boost commerce along the route, said Sen. Richard Durbin.
"If there was ever a moment in our history that we need to create good paying jobs and spur economic development, it’s this moment," he said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Construction will take place on track between just north of Alton to south of Springfield and between just north of Springfield to south of Lincoln.
The $98 million project is a part of $1.1 billion awarded in January by the Obama Administration to improve passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Louis.
The improvements are expected to allow trains to operate at up to 110 mph. At that speed, up from 79 mph currently, travel time between the cities would be cut by about 90 minutes, to under four hours.
State officials say that with continued federal funding, faster trains passing through the Chicago passenger rail hub could operate by 2014 to Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., on one corridor and to Detroit and Pontiac, Mich., on another, the Chicago-Tribune explained. High-speed extensions are also planned to Minneapolis; Indianapolis; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Kansas City, Mo.; Louisville, Ky.; and other cities.