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updated: 2/27/2012 5:40 PM

IDOT head expects high-speed rail test by fall

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  • IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider

      IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider

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A segment of the state's Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail line should be ready for a test run later this year, Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said Monday.

Yet there's unease over funding high-speed rail and other infrastructure needs, she acknowledged, with congressional disagreement over transportation funding legislation.

Speaking to members of the City Club of Chicago, Schneider said she intended to meet with members of Illinois' congressional delegation today in Washington to talk about the latest version of the federal surface transportation bill.

After enough Republicans such as local Congressmen Judy Biggert of Hinsdale and Robert Dold of Kenilworth balked at cuts to mass transit in the House proposal, GOP leaders embarked on a rewrite.

While it appears transit will be included in the latest version, Schneider said there are other problems with the legislation such as slashing the Amtrak subsidy. The House bill also left out high-speed rail.

"We've made a significant investment in Amtrak in Illinois," Schneider said. "It's a huge concern. We're also concerned about potential reductions on the highway side."

While the state has sufficient funding now to continue work on the Chicago to St. Louis 110 mph rail project, if there's no future financial help from the federal government, "it will impact our plans as we go forward," she said.

In the short term, however, the state intends to hold a demonstration of the St. Louis high-speed rail route this fall, she said.

On another issue, IDOT engineers spent months reaching agreement with leaders from DuPage and Cook counties on the extension of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway east to the airport.

The Illinois tollway has taken over the project and that consensus has wilted to a degree over how and if the expressway will connect with O'Hare International Airport. Local mayors say a road into the airport is essential for economic development.

Schneider deferred to the tollway but noted she understood the position of the suburban mayors. "We need to look at all the options."

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