For over a decade, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has pursued improvements to passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Louis. The Chicago to St. Louis Corridor is part of the Midwest Regional Rail System plan to develop and implement a 21st Century regional passenger rail system.
In January 2003, IDOT completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Chicago to St. Louis corridor. The Preferred Alternative from the EIS included the provision of high-speed rail service, 110 miles per hour, along the existing Chicago to St. Louis Amtrak route south of Dwight, Illinois. No action was proposed between Chicago and Dwight. The proposed service consisted of three round trips per day. A Record of Decision (ROD) was signed in January 2004.
Since the ROD, IDOT has made significant progress on the Chicago to St. Louis corridor in cooperation with Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), which owns the right-of-way south of Joliet and operates rail freight services in the corridor, and has coordinated planning efforts with Canadian National Railroad (CN), the owner and operator of the rail line between Joliet and downtown Chicago. Extensive rehabilitation of the Chicago to St. Louis corridor track and signal systems have been upgraded, and four quadrant gates installed at many grade crossings in the corridor.
Illinois received $1.25 million in federal funds to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a new second mainline track.
In October 2009, IDOT prepared and submitted an Environmental Assessment (EA) to the Federal Railroad Association (FRA) for review, and the opportunity to receive funding in support of a second mainline track between Chicago and St. Louis. Due to the complexity of the environmental elements that may impact the Chicago to St. Louis corridor, an additional level of assessment, a Tier 1 EIS, must be completed before Illinois can apply for additional funding for the full build out of a second mainline track.
The 2009 EA summarizes the potential environmental impacts of the project at a corridor-level. It addresses potential impacts, both positive and negative to the following:
The outcome of the project, including the mitigation measures outlined within, will not have a significant adverse impact on the quality of the human and natural environment.