Plans to upgrade an Illinois rail line for high-speed travel could proceed as early as this summer, state transportation officials say. Officials also indicated they are targeting a late 2015 completion date for the $265-million passenger line, which will extend between Chicago and Moline.

As planned, track, signal, station and rolling stock improvements will occur on trackway extending between Chicago and Wyanet, where new track will link to Iowa Interstate Railroad, carrying service to Moline.

The line initially will accommodate two daily round trips per day at speeds up to 79 mph, with an expected travel time of three hours in each direction. Future plans call for increasing the frequency of round trips and achieving speeds of 90 mph, or 110 mph, once additional infrastructure is in place. 

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $230 million in federal funding for high-speed service between Chicago and Iowa City, Iowa. In addition to $177 million in federal funds, Illinois has allocated $45 million to complete its portion of the line.

Iowa legislators have yet to approve matching funds required to extend the line to Iowa City. State officials say funding requirements have ballooned from $21.8 million to $72 million due to inflation, new infrastructure regulations and other costs. Meantime, federal officials have reallocated $18 million intended for Iowa to the Illinois project. Rather than 20% in matching funds, the Iowa extension would require a 58% investment.

Despite funding problems, Iowa rail officials are studying the feasibility of extending high-speed rail from Iowa City to Omaha, Neb. Under that scenario, train service from Chicago would extend from Davenport, Iowa, through Iowa City, Grinnell, Newton, Des Moines, Atlantic and Council Bluffs before terminating in Omaha.