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  • Megann Horstead

IDOT gives update on high-speed Chicago to St. Louis train line

Despite a lack of funding, Illinois’ Department of Transportation remains committed to the construction of a high-speed rail line that will connect Chicago and St. Louis.

Once completed, the new rail line could provide train service that will wisk passengers between the two cities at speeds of up to 110 mph and cut up to an hour off their trip.

The new line could also provide greater access for local commuters in the state from Joliet to Springfield.

The project got underway seven years ago as funding was available through some federal sources said Scott Speegle, passenger rail marketing manager for IDOT.

Speegle gave an update on the project at a recent public meeting at the Gladys Fox Museum in Lockport where he detailed the progress that’s been made and the work that still has to be completed for the rail line.

“We know [commuters] share a lot of the tracks with freight railroads,” said Speegle, noting that the agency continues to look for methods to streamline train traffic near Chicago that “will benefit passenger rail” service for riders on both Amtrack as well Metra, he said.

Seventy projects have been identified for inclusion in the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program, a public-private partnership to create flow throughout Chicago, said Speegle.

Projects include grade separations or entrance gates for railroad crossings, railway flyovers, grade separations for highway and rail crossings, and upgrades to track switches and signal systems for projects among other improvements.

As of May 2015, all railroads were under the Common Operational Picture, a system that allows railway affiliates to view the locations of trains.

To finance the $1.95 billion project, state officials and stakeholders for the various municipalities served by the corridor are working together to obtain federal funds to offset the cost.

“There are a number of projects which have been started or were in various stages,” said Speegle.

“None of those projects have been canceled, but until funding is identified, they probably won’t be moving forward at this point,” he added.

Since 2010, a number of improvements have aimed to serve the project’s mission including the addition of new rail, new construction ties, and turnouts among other items.

Other improvements needed for the Chicago-St. Louis corridor will include the installation of new track as well as some new bridge work.

He said IDOT aims for the new high-speed rail line to address the growing need for passenger rail service while reducing travel time, and improving reliability and safety.

“Our goal…is to have 85 percent on-time performance,” Speegle said adding that the project will also improve “safety throughout the corridor.”



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