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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Union Pacific, Illinois Agree on High-Speed Passenger Rail Plan

Bloomberg / Business Week

Union Pacific Corp., the biggest U.S. railroad, and the state of Illinois agreed to begin construction of the first U.S. high-speed passenger rail route created with economic-stimulus money.

The company was among freight railroads operating in the U.S. that balked at May guidance from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration that spelled out relationships between them and operators of high-speed passenger service on their tracks.

“Today’s announcement will create hundreds of jobs and is a major step towards making high-speed rail a reality in Illinois,” Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, said today in an e- mailed statement. “When the corridor is completed, travelers will be able to move from Chicago to St. Louis in under four hours.”

The Chicago-St. Louis route received $1.1 billion from last year’s $787 billion economic-stimulus package to help create faster passenger rail service. Illinois is the home state of President Barack Obama and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Union Pacific Chief Executive Officer James Young said the May U.S. guidance led the Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad to “basically stop” the project on the Chicago-St. Louis line. Since then, Young and other railroad executives met with LaHood about their concerns.

Rail and Illinois concrete contractors are due to begin work in September.