2013 has been a busy year for the Illinois High-Speed Rail Program. Construction activities took place throughout the entire corridor, showing continued progress on the necessary improvements needed for 110 mph operation throughout the corridor.
In addition, a number of environmental documents were completed allowing for further improvements to be built. These documents included evaluations of the Alton Regional Multimodal Transportation Center Project, the Girard Siding Environmental Assessment (EA), and the Elkhart Siding EA, among others.
Throughout 2013, IDOT, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), and members of the project team also have made presentations to key stakeholders, including various educational and public safety organizations, to discuss the changes in operation of the passenger rail service, and the procurement of new equipment. IDOT and members of the project team have also been attending community events to alert area residents of work and service changes in their area and to personally communicate information about high-speed trains while focusing on education and the safety aspects associated with higher speed trains.
The current High-Speed Rail (HSR) program includes improvements along the existing Amtrak Lincoln Service route on 3rd Street; these enhancements are designed to increase safety and accommodate the operation of higher speed passenger trains. Maximum passenger train speeds through Springfield will increase from 25 mph to 40 mph as part of the HSR program.
Improvements along the existing 3rd Street corridor will consist of the following:
Additional roadway improvements located within the vicinity of a crossing may also be performed in order to meet safety requirements of the HSR program and to enhance traffic flow through the crossing area.
The enhancements on 3rd Street will improve passenger rail operations within the City of Springfield for the immediate future (e.g., within the next decade). They will also allow the City to apply for a Quiet Zone along this corridor. These improvements are funded by grants received as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
As part of the 3rd Street improvements, some at-grade rail crossings also may be considered for closure. The closing of any crossing is a voluntary act and will proceed only with concurrence from local officials, or in some cases, a private property owner. When considering a potential closure, the HSR Program team will evaluate the use of a crossing, access to an alternate crossing location, or if a municipality or local agency is already considering a closure.
The City of Springfield has taken the lead on the Springfield Consolidation Plan, also known as the 10th Street Improvements. This plan, supported by IDOT, provides for the relocation of all 3rd Street rail traffic to 10th Street sometime in the future.
After a successful demonstration run on October 19, 2012, higher speed service began for revenue service operation between Dwight and Pontiac on November 22, 2012.
As a result of the 2004 Record of Decision (ROD), Illinois’ signature passenger rail route, Chicago to St. Louis, was selected by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for $1.1 billion for corridor improvements between Dwight and St. Louis. These improvements include upgraded track built and maintained to 110 miles per hour standards, siding and crossovers, grade crossing surfaces, signals and warning system, stations, and new high-speed passenger trains.
As a result of the FRA’s $1.25 million funding selection, the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study for the full build out (a second mainline track) began in late Fall 2010. The Final EIS was submitted to the FRA in October 2012. The ROD was signed in December 2012. This study determined routing alternatives for Chicago to Dwight, through Springfield and the approach to St. Louis.
Track Renewal Train (TRT) construction was completed in August 2012. Upgrades included new premium rail, stone ballast, and the replacement of outdated wooden ties with concrete ties. The refurbishing of rail/highway crossings with new concrete road services, the installation of switches and class 6 tracks, drainage improvements, and enhancements to bridges, culverts and stations.