Illinois Begins Pushing Chicago to St. Louis Line

Chicago Business reports that Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois appeared at Chicago’s Union Station today to announce that he expected to receive $500 million of the $8 billion high-speed rail element of the stimulus package for upgrades to the Chicago to St. Louis line. Improvements along the corridor would allow trains to make the journey at 110 mph in four hours, down from 5h30 today. The Sun-Times reports that work would be completed by 2014 and that the project would be funded in part by private sources. This makes Illinois the second state after New York to announce a major corridor investment in rail dependent on the stimulus package.

Tip: Midwest High-Speed Rail Blog

9 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Kyle - Boston

    This is good to hear. Hopefully more states begin to not only make these statements, but start to actively seek funding and start the planning and construction process.

  • David Galvan

    I’m a bit worried about the nature of these pushes. The Chicago-St. Louis HSR line being discussed is really just a push to get the speeds up to 110 mph on some sections of the route, reducing the trip duration from 5 hours to 4 hours. That’s great and all, but I predict that kind of small, incremental improvement will do very little to encourage drivers to get out of their cars or passengers to get off the planes.

    I honestly feel that, if HSR is going to be a success in this country, we need to make more substantial improvements than that. It’s probably going to require a lot more money going into building grade-separations and new tracks, something along the lines of the California system. We need to do a system right so that it can serve as a shining example of how HSR can be a success. If all we get out of this stimulus is minor improvements along existing corridors, I just see the enthusiasm for HSR among the public dying off quite quickly.

  • BLambert

    David – although I appreciate, and to a certain extent echo, your concerns about kinda-high-speed vs true high-speed rail, I’m also torn between that and recognizing that just getting a workable rail network in place is also ncecessary.

    This is still tracking improvements that will advance true HSR in that corridor, and is the first step on the Illinois FasTrack Initiative, which the Midwest High Speed Rail Association has endorsed as the first step for building HSR capacity in the Chicago hub network.

    It’s a baby step, yes, but it’s still a concrete and necessary improvement. As much as I’m aggravated by the pace of these changes, I’m trying to temper that with the knowledge that incremental change is what’s going to happen as the limited resource of public dollars are allocated to the huge problem of rail infrastructure revitalization.

  • Chris G

    I think its a good first step. Sure I wish the time line were more compact, but I’ll take what we can get now.

    Also remember that Amtrak runs the majority of the market from NY to Boston on a train that averages 86 MPH. That’s it. Yes it hits 150 in RI for a short while, but it only averages about 86 MPH.

    So if you can get the line from Chicago to St Louis upgraded for 110 running your average should start to compete with the Acela average speed.

    The really important parts of taking market share are not based on the speed of the train but rather the comfort and feeling on the train (new trainsets) and the frequency of operations giving those who use it the choice to come back any hour they want.

  • I welcome the news that other state leaders are getting on the bandwagon and promoting passenger rail again, but I worry about confusing the public with differing definitions of just what High Speed Rail is. 110 Mph should be call something more along the lines of “Express Service” since it is only about half the quality of real High Speed service, similar to comparing “overnight delivery” with “e-mail”.

  • tom veil

    If the plan is to make the ENTIRE line 110-capable, can someone explain why the trips will take 4 hours? Chicago-to-St. Louis is an almost exactly 300 mile route.

    I could see the local taking 4 hours (although Midwest HSR had been marketing it as 3:45), but shouldn’t there be an express that could complete the trip in 2:45? This isn’t some rinky-dink service here; this is the line between the 3rd- and 20th-largest cities north of the Rio Grande.

  • Given electrification, the line should be fairly easy to upgrade to full HSR. The ROW is almost perfectly straight. The main infrastructure upgrades needed are grade separation, four-tracking where necessary, and electrification, in chronological order. There’s no need for a brand new system, unlike in California.

  • anon.

    Rrrgh. *Why* are they focusing on Chicago to St. Louis? Probably because that’s the route which goes through the state capital, Springfield?

    They *should* be putting the money into one of the following:
    — Chicago to Milwaukee. Already insanely popular, and part of the route to Minneapolis, which is one of the key high-speed rail goals.
    — Chicago to Indiana. The route out of Chicago to the south is in terrible condition, very overcrowded, lots of speed restrictions, and causes Amtrak trains to run much, much, much more slowly than they need to. 30 mph all the way from Gary, and for no good reason. There’s some nice straight empty space for fast tracks right next door, and no significant grade crossings…. This would speed up all the Michigan services, as well as all three trains from Chicago to the East Coast, by half an hour or more. It’s also one of the key high-speed rail goals.

    I assume the problem is that either of those routes would benefit too many people who don’t live in Illinois. Can’t help people get from Chicago to somewhere out of state, no, have to help them travel within Illinois only. Urrgh. This is why we need *federal* support for interstate rail.

  • Cameron Slick of Minneapolis

    The reason that Chicago-St. Louis is one of higher consideration is because it’s the closest to being “shovel-ready”, having done studies for the last ten years. Also, the track is NOT straight from Springfield to Chicago. There is another study on taking a real High-Speed Line to Springfield, then east to Decatur, Champaign and north through Kankanee, which is part of the route of the City of New Orleans. However, at TGV-quality, that line would cost $11.5 billion, which would eat up too much of a small pie. As long as trains are faster than driving and more convenient than flying, they will eat up a significant piece of the travel market from St. Louis to Chicago.

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