The study, headed by the University of Illinois' Rail Transportation and Engineering Center at Urbana-Champaign, says 220 mph HSR service linking Chicago's O'Hare Airport and downtown St. Louis could move up to 15 million travelers per year. The study notes 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 HSR. "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 to Alton, allowing top speeds to rise from 89 mph now to 110 mph," he said, noting higher-speed rail (HrSR) upgrades currently under way.
California's "blended" approach to HSR is seen as a serious option in the study. "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.