Illinois assembly approves high-speed rail commission

The 20-member commission will be responsible for drafting a report on public-private partnerships to implement high-speed rail in the state.

A bill to create a commission to advise Illinois on high-speed rail public-private partnerships has passed both chambers of the the state's General Assembly and is now awaiting the governor’s approval.

Mike Jacobs, a Democratic state senator who co-sponsored the legislation, said in a statement that the Midwest Illinois High-Speed Rail Commission will be charged with developing recommendations for a public-private partnership to build, operate, finance and maintain Illinois’ high-speed rail system.

The legislation now is awaiting the signature of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat. Quinn has 60 days to sign the legislation.

A spokesperson for Jacobs said the legislation would create a 20-member commission whose representatives would be appointed by the governor. Twelve members of the commission can come from the private sector, while eight can come from the public sector.

The public sector representatives must include the secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, the director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the executive director of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.

The commission will be required to produce a report on potential public-private partnerships by 20 April 2012, the spokesperson said.

In 2010, Illinois received a $1.2 billion award from the US stimulus bill to bring high-speed rail to the state by 2014.  Illinois is at the center of a proposed Midwest corridor that will link Chicago to St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Detroit.

Earlier this month, Illinois received an additional $268 million from the US Department of Transpiration to purchase passenger cars and locomotives equipped to travel at high speeds, as well as $186 million for track and other improvements on the St. Louis to Chicago corridor.  Illinois received the total of $454 million as part of the reshuffling of $2.4 billion in federal funds that occurred following the cancellation of Florida’s high-speed rail project in February.