Illinois can’t afford high speed rail

Quinn really has gone off the high-speed rails this time.
by Joe Cahil | Crain’s Chicago Business

So now we know: A high-speed rail line connecting Chicago and St. Louis would cost at least $20 billion, maybe as much as $50 billion with a link to Indianapolis.

As my colleague Paul Merrion reports, those estimates come from a study released this week by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Rail Transportation and Engineering Center. Our high-speed-rail-loving governor requested the study.

Keep in mind that we’re talking about really fast trains — 220 miles per hour, not the 110 mph project Gov. Pat Quinn is urging Congress to fund. At 220 mph, you could get to St. Louis in a little more than two hours, less than half the current five-plus. Urbana-Champaign would be just 45 minutes away.

The U of I researchers figure those travel times would attract hordes of riders, between 8 million and 15 million annually. Amtrak’s current Chicago-St. Louis route carries less than 600,000 passengers per year.

Here’s the best part: Researchers conclude a high-speed rail system with so many passengers would operate profitably, based on estimated average fares ranging from $71 to $115.

Sounds great. Now all we have to do is find $20 billion.