Are you kidding?
A 220 mile per hour bullet train from St. Louis to Chicago would take the most direct route through Springfield and Bloomington-Normal, right?
Well, not if you’re representing the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. If you were associated with the MHSPA, you would send the bullet train from St.Louis through Springfield, but then you would veer off to the northeast throught that booming metropolis of Decatur and then on further northeast to Champaign-Urbana, before finally heading due north through Kankakee to Chicago.
You would buy up a lot of right of way and spend more than $11.5 billion before you were all finished.
Sounds like a pipe dream.
In the report promoting the idea, the engineers said a western route through Bloomington-Normal wouldn’t be as feasible.
The current Amtrak routing from Chicago to St. Louis travels through the Bloomington/Normal area to Springfield. South of Springfield the service travels southwest passing through Alton and into St. Louis. This route is programmed for upgrading to a maximum speed of 110 mph in current plans and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been completed for the upgrading. Train service with a maximum speed of 110 mph has been defined as “Emerging HSR” in the US DOT HSR strategic plan. The Western Routing takes the most direct alignment from Chicago to Springfield. It serves Illinois State University and is only 40 miles from Peoria. Upgrading to 220 mph service in this corridor from 110 mph will face a significant hurdle in the segment from Downtown Chicago to Joliet which will necessitate construction of complex and expensive infrastructure. Currently this corridor is constrained with commuter rail, freight railroads, Interstate 55 and two waterways. Proposed spacing for the added track is too tight to permit higher speeds. Construction of a right-of-way wide enough for high speed rail will require relocation of many of these elements which will significantly increase potential costs.
I have a feeling that there’s a lot more to the proposed eastern alignment than track spacing and right of way concerns in the Chicago area.
Whoever came up with this idea was thinking. This new $11.5 billion route would also stop at the proposed third Chicago airport at Peotone before heading downtown and then out to O’Hare. Champaign and Decatur each have inadequate airports and a 220 mile per hour train would put airline passengers who might otherwise be inclined to fly out of Central Illinois Regional Airport less than 50 minutes to the third airport.
Of course this is all many years away, if it ever occurs.
Fortunately, the Chicago Tribune quoted a more than skeptical IDOT, which appears to be committed to improving our line for 110 mile per hour trains.
Construction of IDOT’s 110-m.p.h. plan from Chicago to St. Louis is estimated to cost $2 billion, officials said.
But the association’s study said the straight and level railroad alignments in Illinois provide “ideal conditions for implementing fast operation at reasonable cost.”
IDOT officials said they are reviewing the association’s feasibility study, but at first glance, they questioned whether the $11.5 billion estimate wasn’t too low.
“Our goal is to get to 110 m.p.h. within three to four years. The 220-m.p.h. plan would likely take up to 20 years or more to complete,” IDOT spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said.