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Chicago Construction Jobs through High-Speed Rail

Posted on July 29, 2009

A new high-speed rail network could help created thousands of Chicago construction jobs, as well as construction and permanent jobs in other states.

In all, eight states are coordinating a bid for a share of $8 billion in federal stimulus money for the project. Governors from Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio recently met at the Midwest High Speed Rail Summit to further discuss the project.

If constructed, the high-speed railroad would connect 12 metropolitan areas, with Chicago serving as the main hub. Aside from making transportation among states easier, the project also would help reduce road congestion and lower greenhouse gas emissions. If given the go ahead, the project could take 10 to 20 years to complete. It would create 15,000 construction jobs and another 57,000 permanent jobs.

According to an article by USA Today, five governors recently set up the Midwest Rail Steering Group in order to coordinate applications and lobbying for federal stimulus money. Although a final price for the network is unknown, it has been estimated the project could cost at least $10 billion. In addition to a slice of the $8 billion, another $19 billion in federal money from other sources could be made available during the next several years.

Competition for a piece of the federal stimulus money will be tough. While the Midwest plan and a high-speed rail plan from California are turning out to be the front-runners, 40 states have submitted 278 plans totaling $102 billion in federal rail funding.

The added jobs could help Chicago’s failing construction industry. During June, that industry employed 149,200 workers, according to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is up from 146,600 workers during May, but a 14 percent job decrease from last year.