St. Louis – The White House announced $8 billion in grants for rail projects across the country on Thursday, including a high-speed corridor between St. Louis and Chicago and track upgrades between St. Louis and Kansas City.
All told $1.1 billion dollars will go toward upgrading Amtrak's Chicago to St. Louis route, enabling up to eight round trips daily at speeds up to 110 mph.
$31 million will fund track, bridge and crossing upgrades between St. Louis and Kansas City.
Speaking in St. Louis, Governor Jay Nixon said the investments in rail are the most important regional infrastructure project the Midwest has seen in decades.
"You really can't underestimate how extraordinary this moment is," said Nixon. "This is a railroad town, we all know that, but this is a transformative step."
MoDOT Director Pete Rahn says Missouri's projects, while significantly less expensive than Illinois', will be a big upgrade for cross-state commuters.
"Our connection to Kansas City has always been planned as a tier-two project," notes Rahn. "Our plans have always incorporated the concept that we wouldn't be the 110 mph trains, but our goal has been to get into the 89 mph range."
While Governor Nixon did acknowledge that high speed commuter service to Kansas City is still a ways off, there are improvements that could make the trip faster.
"There are some bottlenecks along the way, we have places where it squeezes down to one track, we'll double those up," said Nixon. We still have some crossovers that stop traffic, that means that sometimes the trains have to slow down; we hope to put overpasses over those."
Transportation officials would speculate when any of these projects might be complete, but Governor Nixon assured the press that Missouri's projects are shovel ready'.