University of Illinois High-Speed Rail Study Released

Friday September 27, 2013

The University of Illinois released the final report of a preliminary feasibility study for a 220-mph high-speed rail (HSR) passenger service between Chicago, Champaign-Urbana and beyond. Sponsored by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), a multidisciplinary team from the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses, studied the feasibility of such a project, including engineering, operational, ridership, economic and financial aspects. The engineering portion of the study was assisted by Hanson Professional Services, Quandel Consultants LLC and d’Escoto Inc.

The study concluded that a 220-mph HSR service from O’Hare Airport through downtown Chicago to Champaign-Urbana and on to St. Louis and/or Indianapolis is feasible and would be likely to cover its operating costs without subsidies. Express high-speed trains would travel from downtown Chicago to Champaign in approximately 45 minutes, to Springfield in approximately one hour and twenty minutes and to St. Louis or Indianapolis in approximately 2 hours.  The study assumed that trains would run every half-hour during peak times and hourly at other times. The economic analysis of the HSR system showed potential substantial benefits to Illinois, including the creation of 409,000 to 792,000 job-years during five years of construction and creation of 10,890 to 13,820 jobs per year during the first 10 years of operation. In addition, analyses of several different cost and revenue scenarios indicated that the HSR system is expected to be operationally profitable. However, as with many large public transportation projects, the initial cost to build it is substantial and would require public and/or private sector funding to cover the initial capital cost.

Various public-private partnerships (PPP) have been successfully used to finance HSR overseas and the viability of adapting these to the US environment should be explored.  An incremental or blended approach completed over a longer time period would reduce initial capital costs and provide other nearer-term transportation benefits, while simultaneously improving intercity transportation quality and travel times.  This is similar to the approach commonly used internationally and should be studied further.

Complete reports can be downloaded here:

For more information, please contact:

Jae Miller
Illinois Department of Transportation
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph, 6th floor
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 814-4693

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