Illinois Moves Towards Rail Authority with Goal of Developing True High-Speed Service

» Passage by State Senate needs to be followed by House approval; Illinois would be third in the nation to specifically plan for very fast trains.

Considering the infusion of federal funds earlier this year for the state’s rail system to be only a first step towards a truly upgraded network, the Illinois State Senate last week almost unanimously approved a measure that would create a commission to evaluate the implementation of true high-speed rail service there. If passed as expected by the State House and signed by the Governor, bill SB 2571 would make Illinois the third in the country after California and Florida to actively promote the implementation of trains operating at over 150 mph.

In January, the U.S. Department of Transportation allocated $1.13 billion for upgrades to the St. Louis-Chicago mainline, enough to speed trains to 110 mph and connect the cities in just four hours.

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Final Applications Submitted for Corridor-Level High-Speed Rail Grants

» First phase of applications for Track 2 line planning and construction attracts major bid demands from California, North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Update (13 October): State of Indiana has applied for $2.8 billion in funds on behalf of the Midwest Regional Rail Intiative for a 110 mph line connecting Chicago and Cleveland.

Update (6 October): Federal Railroad Administration head Joseph Szabo released the following news earlier today:

“We have received numerous applications from states and groups of states for the development of high-speed and intercity passenger rail programs for grant funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  These include 45 applications from 24 states totaling approximately $50 billion to advance high-speed rail corridor programs. We also received 214 applications from 34 states totaling $7 billion for corridor planning and smaller projects.”

All awards, according to the statement, will be announced this winter (for the $8 billion). This means that the states

Continue reading Final Applications Submitted for Corridor-Level High-Speed Rail Grants »

Southeast Minnesota Angles for Rail Link through Rochester

Linking Southeast Minnesota to the Midwest Rail Network

» But the fastest route would stop at the city’s airport rather than downtown.

Though state of Minnesota has not been the most active advocate of new rail connections, a faster connection between the Twin Cities and Chicago has been an ubiquitous component of proposals for high-speed rail in the Midwest. The corridor’s termini are set in stone, but its exact route is not. Whereas existing Amtrak service runs along the Mississippi River from La Crosse, Wisconsin to St. Paul, residents of Rochester and the surrounding areas are pushing for the improved line to run through southeast Minnesota. A new study demonstrates the advantages of such a detour, but its lack of connection through downtown Rochester could ultimately prove to be a major limitation.

The Southeast Minnesota Rail Alliance report compares several different routes through the state, including the 130-mile existing corridor that parallels the river and a new

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Major Study Advocates 220 Mph Operation on Chicago-St. Louis Run

Midwest High Speed Rail Association envisions a less than two-hour express trip between the cities.

Today, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association released a major report studying 220 mph train service between Chicago and St. Louis. Though the project has yet to be endorsed by any government officials, the Association’s study will stimulate further discussion about the level of investment necessary for the link between the two cities. More importantly, the study’s conclusions indicate that Illinois’ existing plans for 110 mph, four-hour service between the metro regions are out of date and under-scaled to meet travel needs in the Midwest.

The study, completed by consultant Tran Systems, was commissioned by the Association to determine costs and other elements of a potential very-fast service across the state of Illinois. The main challenge of the report was to compare the existing Amtrak corridor, which runs almost directly from Chicago to

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Does Senator Bond Have it Right?

» A minimal investment in rail between Chicago and St. Louis won’t get Americans excited about fast trains.

Since Congress approved $8 billion for high-speed rail in this year’s stimulus bill, Illinois has been pushing hard for improvements along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, which they contend should be the first investment in a Midwest-wide network of fast railways. Now governors Pat Quinn (D) of Illinois and Jay Nixon (D) of Missouri are pledging to work together to fund the corridor connecting their two states. But for now, their efforts are focused on an anemic project that will ramp up speeds to only 110 mph, reducing the journey time between the two cities from five hours today to less than four. Mr. Nixon said yesterday that he’d like to eventually speed trains to 210 mph, but the $8 billion authorized for projects around the nation won’t be nearly enough to

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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