Midwest high-speed rail gets Congressional approval

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn.
ouse Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill March 7, 2008 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar says a high-speed rail line between Chicago and the Twin Cities could be a reality within five years.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act was passed by the U.S. House and Senate. It authorizes $680 million a year for five years for high speed rail projects.

Oberstar, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, says one such project is the line from Chicago to the Twin Cities.

"We'll be able to proceed with Chicago as the hub, a line east to Cleveland, south to St. Louis, and west through Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Madison, the Twin Cities and eventually Duluth," said Oberstar.

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The bill also significantly increases automated safety features on passenger rail cars. Amtrak's operations and infrastructure budget would also get a big boost.

Oberstar says he is hopeful that President Bush will sign the bill into law.

In a separate development, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has been awarded a federal matching grant of $1.1 million to begin studying the impact of a high-speed rail line between Duluth and the Twin Cities, which is called the Northern Lights Express.

The money comes from the US Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration. The matching funds need to come from state and local sources.