Champaign County to instate high-speed rail to Chicago

The Champaign County Board passed a resolution 15-8 approving a high-speed rail line going through Champaign-Urbana on Thursday.

“I’m glad we passed it because we do need to continue to show that Champaign County needs this,” said Michael Richards, Champaign County board member, “and we’re going to show the governor we need this.”

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association said Wednesday afternoon it supported a resolution that endorses the possibility of building a high-speed rail that would connect Champaign to Chicago and its suburbs at a press conference at the Illinois Terminal.

This proposed plan has been supported by the majority of local organizations as a faster way to reach Chicago, said Rick Harnish, director of the rail association. A one-way ride is expected to take approximately 45 minutes.

“(It) becomes easier to attract staff that really keeps U of I on the map (and) … keeps the young people coming to this University,” he said. “When (students) come up with a great idea at U of I, they can stay here (to develop that idea).”

State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, who is also a member of the legislative caucus for the high-speed rail, said the University hosts many international students who frequently come to Champaign through O’Hare International Airport.

“People come from all over the world, so let’s make it easy for them to get here, as well as making it easy for us to get to Chicago,” she said.

Gov. Pat Quinn appointed a $1.25 million study commission during the summer, which is exclusively funded by state money, that is examining the possibility of the project through central Illinois. In addition, both the Urbana and Chicago campus faculties have been asked by the rail association to learn about the high-speed rail’s economic effects, which have been stressed by its supporters.

“This would tie us into the economic powerhouse of the Midwest (by) creating jobs, bringing businesses to the areas and (the) potential of increased options for Champaign-Urbana,” Harnish said.

Despite the proposed economic growth, the plan has raised a few concerns among local politicians, which Harnish said he hopes to solve.

Champaign County Board members had endorsed the possibility of a high-speed rail at its Aug. 9 meeting by a single vote. However, most county board Republicans present at the meeting voted in opposition of the idea.

Alan Nudo, Champaign County Board Republican, said he is concerned about the ability to find funds for this project.

“There truly isn’t any money (available from the federal government) unless we print it to fund this,” Nudo said. “If it was funded by private enterprise, I would be 100 percent for that. With the private enterprise there are no negatives, but if you’re taking about the federal funding, they (the federal government) need to get their act together.”