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Letter to The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary, United States Department of Transportation


Senator Roland Burris and Fellow Members of the Illinois Delegation Advocate for High Speed Rail in the Midwest

Today, United States Senator Roland W. Burris along with his colleagues in the Illinois Delegation sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to advocate for a high speed rail system in the Midwest.

The recently passed FY2010 Omnibus appropriations bill stipulates that the Department of Transportation allocate $10.5 billion in funding for high speed passenger rail in the U.S. States from across the country will be considered through an application process conducted by the Department of Transportation. Senator Burris and his fellow Illinois Delegation members urged Secretary LaHood to seriously consider the prospect of high speed rail in the Midwest, and highlighted the economic opportunities that would be present if the Midwest was granted these valuable funds.

"I was honored to join my colleagues in supporting the bid for high speed rail here in the Midwest," said Senator Burris. "High speed rail in Illinois and throughout the Midwest would modernize our transportation infrastructure and spark the creation of much needed jobs throughout the region."

Below is the letter sent to Secretary LaHood from Senator Burris and the Illinois Delegation:

December 18, 2009

The Honorable Ray LaHood
Department of Transportation

Dear Secretary LaHood:

Thank you for your leadership on high speed rail. With the recent passage of the FY 10 Omnibus appropriations bill, your Department is now in charge of $10.5 billion in funding slated for high speed passenger rail - the largest appropriation for high speed rail in U.S. history. This funding has the potential to fundamentally reshape our national transportation system.

We believe high speed rail funding will have the greatest impact in Illinois, home to the nation's largest rail system. As you consider states' applications for funding, we encourage you to make a significant investment in Illinois during the first round of high speed rail awards. We recognize there is a strong demand for new and expanded service for intercity high speed passenger rail throughout the country, but we believe the rail corridors in Illinois provide the best opportunity to develop a regionally integrated, nationally significant high speed rail system.

Illinois has spearheaded a regional effort in the Midwest to build an integrated high speed rail network. These Midwest states have already completed careful planning and made significant investments to modernize our existing passenger rail system. The Midwest rail system, with Chicago as its hub, could provide 3,000 miles of high speed rail service and serve 90 percent of the 60.3 million people living in its nine-state region. A significant federal investment into this region could create a rail system that could carry nearly as much traffic as regional air service.

The core of the Midwest system lies in Illinois, with the Chicago to St. Louis route as the high-speed backbone of the network. New regional routes to the Quad Cities and Rockford will feed into the high speed routes originating in Chicago and terminating in Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis and Madison/Minneapolis.

The Midwest also offers an opportunity for the federal government to provide both short-term economic stimulus and a sustained source of economic growth in the region. Federal Railroad Administration studies show the highest level of economic benefit associated with rail investment anywhere in the U.S. outside of the Northeast Corridor is in the Midwest. A study completed by the Midwest states reinforced the Administration's findings, showing $1.70 return on every dollar invested in Midwest High Speed Rail.

We believe Illinois offers the greatest opportunity for your Department to enhance mobility, reduce reliance on foreign oil, lessen congestion and provide steady employment in a region hard hit by job loss.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. We stand ready to assist you in further developing a world-class intercity passenger rail system.