Getting Midwesterners on board with high-speed rail

I was surprised when Vocalo radio host, Molly Adams, asked me about high-speed rail. I imagined we would only talk about local transit and bicycling projects and issues; as a railfan, I was prepared to answer her question. She said, “How realistic is a possible high-speed rail, in the region?”

I confidently replied, “It is finally starting to happen” (read and listen to the full interview). Work finished in September 2010 to replace tracks between Alton, Illinois (north of St. Louis), and Lincoln, Illinois (north of Springfield).

An Amtrak and Metra train wait in the south part of Union Station in Chicago. Photo by Eric Pancer.

The best part of this interview is at the end when we talk about how urban dwellers choose their transportation mode. But let’s stick with high-speed rail (HSR).

Progress in Illinois

Now, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Union Pacific (UP) are hard at work replacing track between Elkhart (north of Springfield) and Dwight (south of Joliet) on the Amtrak Lincoln Service route. This will increase theoretical maximum train speeds to 110 MPH. Illinois along with the Departments of Michigan and Wisconsin, have received federal funding to cooperatively purchase new trains and locomotives that can reach this speed. IDOT and its consultants, PB Americas, Hanson Professional Services, and Parsons Transportation Group, are working on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project to “double track” the entire route from Chicago to St. Louis, or build a new one, in the Tier 1 study.