The government of Brazil has announced it is seeking bid proposals for a 317-mile high-speed rail line linking São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The project would be the first of its kind in South America, which currently has no high-speed rail lines. The project currently has an estimated budget of $19.44 billion and would serve a corridor that is home to 40 million people—20% of Brazil’s population.

Under the current plan, 60% of the cost would be funded by Brazil’s development bank, and the remaining 40% would be provided by the winning bidder, which also would receive a concession to operate the line for up to 40 years.

Trains on the line would run at speeds of up to 217 mph. The project will include up to seven stations, including stops at the two major cities’ international airports. The project will not be finished by the 2014 World Cup games as originally planned, but the Brazilian government has required that it be completed by 2015, in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Public hearings on the bidding process are set for January 2010, and a list of conditions for the process will be released in early February. Bid proposals will be opened and examined in May.