The Illinois rail network has many exciting projects that are currently under construction. With the main focus on the construction of 110-mph train travel from Chicago to St. Louis, there are a plethora of other innovative and necessary projects throughout the state. These projects are at varying levels of completion or in still in the planning stages. To improve the efficiency of the whole transportation network, CrossRail Chicago and the O’Hare Express train, from O’Hare to Chicago Union Station, is desperately needed to better integrate Chicago into the global and regional economy.
Going forward the rail future of Illinois is generally positive, but to continue to improve the entire Midwestern rail system, further progress must be made. Exciting projects in Chicago, such as new rail flyovers and bridge improvements, will make the whole network more effective. However, funding cuts from the state government are putting further improvements at risk and we must work to maintain and expand current funding for our rail infrastructure.
An October 2013 feasibility study on connecting Chicago/O’Hare with St. Louis found it would be feasible to bring high speed rail to Illinois. Unfortunately, no plans for the installation of the 220 mph route have been made.
According to a study by the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association, this project could create 26,800 full time jobs and generate $700 million in household income. The 110-130 mph line was first proposed in 2004, and has continued to gain traction and advocates. The Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commision has taken the lead in organizing support from local communities along the proposed route and among regional organizations. They hope to start a Tier I Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the route, the first step in moving the project towards construction. Click here to learn more
Upgrades to the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service have been highly anticipated for a long time. The project, funded from a federal government grant, includes improvements to stations, safety improvements and railroad improvements that allow trains to travel at 110-mph. With the project finally nearing completion, riders are beginning to reap the benefits. Currently trains are already running up to 110 mph from Dwight to Pontiac and will have the same capability from Joliet to Carlinville once construction is completed in 2016.
Moreover, Intermittent portions of the Amtrak Lincoln Service are double tracked but for more efficient service the whole line needs to be double tracked. Currently, the entire line from Chicago to Joliet is double tracked. The rest of the route features periodical double tracking. A Federal Rail Administration study found that double tracking the entire route would improve travel times and increase ridership.Click here to learn more.
With ridership in the last 2 decades nearly doubling, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to add three express trains from Milwaukee to Chicago. These trains will travel the distance 11 minutes quicker than the non-express trains. Currently, trains from Chicago to the Twin Cities spend, on average, several hours idling as freight trains (who have track priority) pass by. This often causes the passenger trains to be several hours late. However, after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker rejected funding from the Federal Government in 2010 no plans for improvements along the Wisconsin segment of the line were made. Due to the distance between the cities and their existing economic ties, a high-speed line from Chicago to the Twin Cities is a perfect corridor for high speed rail and it would create a much larger network.
Included in the CREATE Program are 70 projects that vary from rail overpasses, new stations and freight line improvements. Through these projects, CREATE will improve rail travel times, reduce traffic congestion, and increase safety. Click here to learn more
The vital corridor is under an environmental and development study by a partnership of Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Illinois Department of Transportation. This study will analyze the benefits of expanding frequency from 7 to 10 trips a day as well as increasing maximum speeds to 90 mph in some areas. This is an excellent route for high speed rail and would demonstrate the feasibility of high speed rail in the midwest. Click here to learn more
The Multi-Modal Station is being funded by the state government, local city and a TIGER Federal grant of $10 million. Illinois promised to fund the rest of the station’s costs, but due to state budgetary issues, Moline has paid the state’s portion. Construction began in August of 2015, after several delays relating to grants. After being restored it will serve as the station for future Chicago to Quad Cities Amtrak service. It is intended to improve the downtown area by making it more accessible and spurring additional private investments. The improvements to this station are vital for any plans to expand this line into Iowa to be successful. Click Here to Learn More
This project is a part of Chicago’s CREATE program. The flyover will eliminate daily conflicts between 78 Metra-Rock Island District trains and 60 freight and Amtrak trains on the route underneath. The construction of the flyover will allow Metra to improve its commute time and reduce congestion for both routes. As of July 2015, the Flyover was still under construction. Click here to learn more
The station sits at the crossroads of the St. Louis to Chicago train, close to the Central Illinois Regional Airport, and on a major bike path to Bloomington. A new multi-modal facility was funded by a Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. The station was opened in July 2012. The High-Speed Rail project is funding a second platform and passenger grade separation. Click here to learn more
The project will revitalize downtown Joliet and provide more transportation options for local residents. Included is a new platform for Metra and Amtrak trains as well as parking improvements and pedestrian walkways.
The first step for a rail line between Chicago and Quad Cities is supposed to be completed in 2016. At the moment no rail exists from the Quad Cities to Des Moines via Iowa City. A Record of Decision by the FRA concluded that of 5 proposed routes from Chicago to Omaha, the route running through Des Moines, Iowa City and the Quad Cities would be the most cost effective and have the highest ridership.
Chicago’s Union Station is a critical part of the Midwest rail system. Upgrades should be pursued in order to improve capacity and service quality for trains throughout the region. Click here to learn more
Progress is being made on plans for an O’Hare Train Station. This train station must be accompanied with the installation of an O’Hare Express Train to Union Station. MHSRA leaders had positive conversations with top city officials on the subject, and city officials understand the need for an O’Hare Express and a modern Train Station. Click here to learn more
In 2014 plans to restore Amtrak service between Chicago and Rockford were set into motion. Travel was expected to begin in late 2015, with IDOT negotiating for the use of the Canadian National Railway to extend service to Dubuque. However, in February 2015, Bruce Rauner announced that the service would not be started as previously planned.
This route would link the Southwestern Chicago suburbs to the city, reducing travel congestion and improving air quality. Current studies have looked into using existing freight lines for the commuter trains, but dedicated commuter tracks would be better. With the populations of La Salle and Kendall Counties expected to nearly double, this connection merits further study. Click here to learn more
The Suburban Transit Access Route (STAR) would allow suburban residents to travel quickly between suburbs. It would eliminate the need to ride to and from Chicago to reach neighboring communities. Studies conducted on the route indicate that the route would prevent 1000 traffic accidents and have enormous public health benefits. The STAR line is included in our Cross Rail Chicago Plan. Click here to learn more
IIn 2014 Amtrak's Hoosier State line between Chicago and Indianapolis lost federal funding, but in October of that year Governor Pence came to an agreement with local governments to fund the line. However, this agreement was ruled illegal by the Federal Rail Administration, thus placing the rail in danger of closing once more. A partnership between Amtrak, the state, and Iowa-Pacific Railroad, has staved off closure. Amtrak will operate the line on behalf of INDOT, with Iowa-Pacific providing the train equipment, maintenance, food service and marketing. Iowa-Pacific has plans to improve the line by increasing the amount of trips and upgrading the tracks to allow the trains to run at higher speeds.
The expansion of the South Shore commuter line is going forward as planned. A 2015 bill passed by the Indiana Senate and House developed a streamlined Regional Development Authority (RDA) The RDA operates and funds portions of the South Shore Line--which now has the resources for an expansion to Munster and Dyer. Additionally, communities along the line’s path pledged more funds to help complete the expansion by 2023. This expansion will increase ridership by 7,000 as well as add $5 million in new sales and income tax revenue to the local and state governments. Click here to learn more
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) moved the planned improvement of the Amtrak Empire line between Chicago-Minneapolis to the Phase I Advanced Planning Stage and are conducting a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the segment between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities. They are also exploring allowing passenger trains to share the right-of-way with freight trains, or even operate on a dedicated passenger track. A feasibility study on the addition of a second round trip from Chicago to Minneapolis concluded that a second round trip would greatly increase ridership and increase the viability of the Empire line between Chicago and the Twin Cities. While these steps are positive improvements, real high-speed rail must be initiated between Chicago and the Twin Cities. This is a perfect corridor for high speed rail and it would create a larger network that could be expanded to exclude other cities and states.