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IDOT Mulls Options For St. Louis Area High-Speed Rail Line

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

The Illinois Department of Transportation is considering two options for a high-speed rail line between St. Louis and Granite City. 

It’s part of a broader high-speed rail corridor between St. Louis and Chicago that’s aimed at shortening commute times between the two cities.

Construction is already underway on rail improvements between Alton and Joliet. But Congress hasn’t issued federal funding yet to build a high-speed rail line between St. Louis and Illinois. IDOT is taking the preliminary steps to apply for the federal money.

One part of that process is conducting what’s called an environmental impact study, which must be done in order to apply for federal funding. Part of that study is deciding where to route the high-speed rail line between St. Louis and the Metro East.

IDOT is offering up two options: The first would go across the western side of the Mississippi River before crossing the Merchants Bridge over into Illinois. The second would cross the McArthur Bridge and then continue along the eastern side of the Mississippi River. (Click here to see a map of the project corridor.)

“We are focusing initially on those two corridors,” said Chris Gesing, a consultant on the project. “As we move forward, if other routes are considered and seem viable we’ll be looking at those as well. But those are our primary focuses in our study.”  

IDOT held a public hearing in East St. Louis on Tuesday evening to gauge public input. Once the environmental impact study is completed, it will be up to Congress to decide whether to allocate the money for the project.

Gesing said there’s no guarantee that federal funding will materialize right away.

“We’re going to be competing for funding,” Gesing said. “Depending on timeline and on who gets finished, it’s not necessarily that the first one there gets done. It’s how the appropriation is spread out over time.”

The goal of high-speed rail is to operate passenger trains that can go as fast as 110 miles per hour. And if the St. Louis to Chicago rail line is complete, IDOT high-speed rail manager Francesco Bedini Jacobini said it could be an attractive option for commuters.

“In terms of travel time, it starts to be comparable to the time it takes to drive from St. Louis to Chicago,” Jacobini said. “So, rail transport might be a very good alternative as opposed to traveling by car.”

Both Gesing and Jacobini said the environmental impact study should be completed by next year.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.