"This jumpstarts Illinois' opportunity to be part of the regional high-speed passenger rail service like we have never seen in the state before," said Ray LaHood, secretary of transportation.
The idea has floated around for years. The test of a train going 110 mph near Normal, Illinois, was more than seven years ago. What's been missing is the money to make it happen routinely.
"Think about two-thirds of the existing track being upgraded so that trains can move up to 110 mph. Think about six new train sets will be involved in this and new stations along the way. And don't forget 6,000 construction jobs," said Sen. Dick Durbin.
The investment in Illinois would improve service between Chicago and St. Louis, using the rail corridor that currently runs parallel to Interstate 55.
The section of track between Dwight, Illinois, and Alton, Illinois, would be improved so that trains could travel at speeds up to 110 mph. That's not "bullet train" speed, but it would shave about an hour off the travel time between the two cities.
The money spent in Illinois would also go to improving train stations and signaling systems along the route.
This is meant to be a first step toward a larger high-speed train network that would eventually connect every city within 400 miles of Chicago.