Grants announced for development of high-speed rail connecting the Midwest

Thursday, January 28, 2010 | 10:18 a.m. CST; updated 11:25 a.m. CST, Thursday, January 28, 2010

ST. LOUIS — Train travel for Missouri residents will become faster after the Obama administration announced grants of $1.1 billion for development of a high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis and $31 million for upgrades between St. Louis and Kansas City.

The funding is expected to be announced Thursday and is part of $8 billion in grants to aid 13 rail corridors in 31 states. Some Democrats say the rail-building program could rival the interstate highways begun in the Eisenhower era in terms of what it means for travel.

Listen to President Obama speak about grants

President Obama and Vice President Biden will hold a town hall meeting at 1:05 p.m. EST today in Tampa, Fla. where they will talk more about these grants. Listen in live by clicking here.

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"This is big news for the St. Louis metropolitan area," U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, a St. Louis Democrat, said in a statement. " By connecting Missouri's two largest economic engines to the rest of the Midwest with faster, more efficient rail travel, we are making a down payment on the economic future of our region."

Gov. Jay Nixon, Carnahan and Edward Montgomery, executive director of the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers, planned to discuss the grants during a Thursday afternoon news conference in St. Louis.

The $1.1 billion project would pay for construction of track, signal, station and rolling stock improvements to enable trains running three of the five daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis to travel up to 110 mph.

The $31 million grant in Missouri will fund expansion of existing railroad bridges and universal crossovers, and pay for improved grade crossings. The project would help remove some of the delays between St. Louis and Kansas City caused when passenger trains must yield to freight trains along the route.

The grants are part of the Recovery Act funding passed by Congress in 2009.

Carnahan, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that in addition to improving service for rail commuters, the projects will create jobs, though he didn't say how many.

Timetables for the projects have not been announced.

Nixon and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, both Democrats, have lobbied for a network of faster passenger trains in the Midwest.

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