There is a price -- beyond dollars -- on Illinois' new high-speed rail plan and the I-Team has learned about the impact on people and natural resources.
The I-Team now has a better idea of the cost of going 31 mph faster. We already know the tremendous dollar amount attached to the high-speed rail project -- billions of dollars -- now we have learned about the cost to people's lives and the environment.
The 284-miles rail corridor between Chicago and St. Louis is primarily a single track, for both freight and passenger trains. The line passes through several Chicago suburbs and cuts through Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, Alton, and into St. Louis, right now at a top speed of top speed of 79 mph.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is leading the charge to build a 110 mph rail line all the way from Chicago to St. Louis.
Last month the governor did a show-and-tell onboard the first portion of the high-speed rail that is already under construction.
The I-Team has obtained an exhaustive federal report that lays out environmental impact of the rail line. Even though the four alternative plans would largely use existing rail right-of-way, the report finds that high speed rail will:
-displace from 183-317 buildings along the route.
-disrupt nearly 2000 acres of prime farmland, a half dozen historic sites, more than 200 acres of forests and 17 acres of protected nature sites.
-numerous streams and other waterways, wetlands and floodplains would be impacted according to the federal railway study.
-as the number of daily passenger trains would increase from 10 to 18, so would air pollution, noise, vibration impact and even vehicle waiting time at crossings.
Despite the impact along the way, federal inspectors report that there would be no overall environmental chaos or disruption by the high-speed rail.
For many critics of the plan, the larger concern is, Can Illinois afford it at a time when the state has a multi-billion dollar deficit? Or can the federal government afford it on the brink of a fiscal cliff for the sake of going 20 mph faster from Chicago to St. Louis?