The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) continues to lead the way on improving and adding passenger rail service within the state in order to provide a more balanced transportation system and provide the travelling public with greater mobility options. There are currently three projects underway that endeavor to meet these goals: the Chicago to St. Louis High Speed Rail Project, the Chicago to Rockford/Dubuque Project and the Chicago to Quad Cities Project. Additionally, IDOT is working in conjunction with several other states’ departments of transportations on the purchase of new locomotives and passenger cars.
IDOT currently fully supports Amtrak service along three corridors: Chicago to Quincy, St. Louis and Carbondale. Additionally, IDOT and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation jointly support service between Chicago and Milwaukee, WI. These four routes provide passenger rail service to 34 communities in Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri on 30 trains per day, making Illinois a national leader in providing passenger rail service for the travelling public in the state.
Chicago to St. Louis High Speed Rail Project
From Chicago to St. Louis, high-speed trains will operate at speeds up to 110 miles per hour, where safe and practical. The current Amtrak trains for this corridor operate at speeds up to 79 mph.
Improvements have been underway between the Joliet and the East St. Louis area since 2010. By 2015, significant infrastructure improvements will be in place to support speeds of up to 110 mph on much of the Joliet-Carlinville portion of the corridor, along with initial reductions in travel time by one half hour from the current travel time. Infrastructure improvements to support 110 mph service over the entire Joliet-East St. Louis segment are expected to be in place by the end of 2017, which will result in another half hour reduction in travel time on the corridor.
Improvements to the corridor consist of the following:
· Track and infrastructure upgrades including new premium rail, stone ballast, and the replacement of wooden ties with concrete ties.
· Safety upgrades including a new signal system and four-quadrant gates.
· Rail/highway crossings refurbished with new concrete road surfaces.
· Station improvements may include enhanced aesthetics with new or renovated facilities, new ADA compliant boarding platforms, lighting, site and parking improvements.
In addition, Tier 2 Environmental Studies are currently being prepared for Chicago to Joliet and Granite City to St. Louis segments of the corridor. The purpose of these studies is to investigate alternatives needed to upgrade those segments for higher speed rail. Recommendations are expected by early 2015 and will be presented to the public for comment, with full completion of the studies by the end of 2015 or in early 2016. A Tier 2 Environmental Study for Springfield Flyover is also nearly complete.
As part of the Chicago to St. Louis High Speed Rail Project, Illinois is purchasing new locomotives and passenger rail cars to provide an enhanced passenger experience on all of its corridors.
In March 2013, IDOT was selected to lead a joint procurement between Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington for 35 next-generation diesel locomotives. In December 2013, IDOT issued a Notice of Intent to Award to Siemens USA to design, build and deliver the locomotives. Delivery of 21 new Midwest locomotives is scheduled to begin in October 2016, with the possible addition of up to 9 option cars.
A national request for proposals for the rail cars was released in April 2012 with the State of California taking the lead in a joint procurement between Illinois, California, Michigan, and Missouri. Nippon-Sharyo was awarded a $352 million contract in November 2012 for 130 rail cars to be used throughout the four states (88 for the Midwest). The bi-level rail cars will include improved amenities, such as Wi-Fi, variable message signing, and improved food/beverage service. Delivery of new passenger cars is scheduled to begin in summer 2016. Final negotiations on precise car quantities are currently underway with Nippon-Sharyo, with the Midwest states targeting a final order of between 103-107 cars.
Additional information about the Chicago to St. Louis High Speed Rail Project and Equipment purchases can be found at www.idothsr.org.
Chicago to Rockford/Dubuque Project
The planned restoration of passenger rail service between Chicago and Rockford was announced by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in April 2014. The project is being funded by $223 million received from the Illinois Jobs Now! Capital Program. The improvements needed to restore service include upgrading tracks, capacity improvements, a layover facility, a UP/Metra connection, bridge improvements, and new stations in Huntley, Belvidere and Rockford. IDOT is coordinating with the Union Pacific Railroad, Metra, Amtrak, the Illinois Commerce Commission and with the cities involved. Per the plan announced by Gov. Quinn, and subject to review by the incoming Rauner Administration, one daily roundtrip is scheduled to begin by the end of 2015, with two daily round trips to be in place by the end of 2016. Negotiations with the CN Railroad to extend service would resume upon the identification of funding.
Chicago to Quad Cities Project
Service between Chicago and the Quad Cities is being planned to use the current Chicago to Quincy route between Chicago and Wyanet and tracks owned by the Iowa Interstate Railroad between Wyanet and Moline. An agreement for track rehabilitation and signal design was reached with the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) in August 2014. IDOT is now reviewing IAIS’s plan and cost estimates as submitted in late October 2014, and will review the data with the incoming Rauner Administration in January 2015.
Construction on BNSF Railway’s Eola Yard in Aurora began in fall 2014 and represents an important part of this project in helping ease congestion on the tracks.
Additional information about the Chicago to Rockford/Dubuque Project, the Chicago to Quad Cities Project and current IDOT sponsored rail service can be found at www.illinoisrail.org.