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Illinois High-Speed Rail, What It Is & Isn’t

March 3, 2014 Featured, Metro East, Transportation 9 Comments

Last week the Illinois Department of Transportation held open house meetings throughout the state to discuss high-speed rail studies.  The morning of the open house in East St. Louis television station KMOV got the story all wrong, but their mistakes will help me explain the reality.

First, what they reported:

KMOV showed video of a foreign bullet train, click image for story.
KMOV showed video of a foreign bullet train, click image for story.
The reporter broadcasting from the East Riverfront MetroLink light rail station said the "...$500,000 would transform this station..."
The reporter broadcasting from the East Riverfront MetroLink light rail station said the “…$500,000 would transform this station…” No, no it wouldn’t!
Blue=usual Amtrak route Green=secondary Amtrak route if too much freight on the east route Red=MetroLink light rail
The blue line is the usual Amtrak route, the green line is the secondary Amtrak route if too much freight on the east route.  The red line is the MetroLink light rail with the red marker the spot KMOV would become a high speed rail station.  One possible location is where the

Here’s where they failed:

  1. IDOT means 110mph when they talk of “high speed rail”, showing a 200+ mph train is misleading.
  2. IDOT is just starting to study the Granite City to St. Louis section, St. Clair County would like to see a station somewhere along the route — which isn’t even close to the light rail station they identified.
  3. Their angle was to question the spending of half a million in tax dollars, because they’re looking out for us!

Amtrak service crosses the Mississippi River in two places, the MacArthur Bridge (1917) to the south of I-64 or the Merchants Bridge (1889).  Both bridges are owned by the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA).  The IDOT study will be looking at improving one or both crossings, or building a third, to improve passenger service.The Merchants Bridge crosses over into Illinois in Madison County, not St. Clair County. Madison already has a stop on the line in Alton.  The best chance for a new station in St. Clair County is if the MacArthur Bridge remains in use or a new bridge is built nearby.

The St. Louis skyline in the background, the Malcolm Martin Memorial park in the foreground as seen from Amtrak last month
The St. Louis skyline in the background, the Malcolm Martin Memorial park in the foreground as seen from Amtrak last month
I could see locating a new station in the space between MetroLink (red), the tracks (blue) the highway and Riverpark Dr
I could see locating a new station in the space between MetroLink (red), the tracks (blue) the highway and Riverpark Dr

Any new stop on the MetroLink line would need lots of projected ridership to justify taking the time to stop. Where the TRRA tracks, MetroLink, and Interstate converge is the ideal location. The tracks do run right where the new I-70 approach to the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge passes over Illinois Route 3, another possible location.

The purpose of the open house was to introduce the next phase of studies to improve the Chicago-St. Louis corridor. Over the last 5 years there have been many improvements resulting in less delays. At one point the trains can now reach 110 mph, but it’s a very brief point.

Returning home last month it took over an hour to get from Alton to St. Louis! Our train got stuck behind two different slow-moving freight trains, we were lucky if we averaged 25mph.

The open house at the Jackie Joyner Kersee Center in East St. Louis was very well attended.
The open house at the Jackie Joyner Kersee Center in East St. Louis was very well attended.

For more information see the IDOT High Speed Rail website.

 

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Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. concerned billiken says:

    the train ride from alton-stl is embarrassing. how amtrak and the state of illinois could spend all that money chasing 20 minutes between springfield and joliet but totally ignore alton to the mississippi is beyond me.

    still, at least there is interest in investing in amtrak. they need the help and its a great value if you can find tickets for a reasonable price.

     
    • My guess is they prioritized Chicago-Springfield over St. Louis-Springfield. By the end of 2017 it should be much improved.

       
      • JZ71 says:

        And they prioritized the way they did because they get more riders up north than down this way?

         
      • Greg says:

        The prioritized Joliet to Springfield as is not as much congestion between those two cities, rather than the terminal areas around Chicago and St. Louis. It was the “low hanging fruit” which could be upgraded faster and cheaper.

         
      • Thomas R Shrout Jr says:

        Chicago Legislators want to get to and from Springfield.

         
    • eric4653 says:

      The part of the line around Alton is so windy and circuitous, that I expect in the long run they’ll build new tracks directly north from around Edwardsville instead. Why invest in a section that may not have a long-term future at all.

       
    • dempster holland says:

      Part of the problem is that the alton-st louis route is limited in places by “yard speed”. One
      solution would be to lay new tracks on one side or the other of the yard and therefore allow
      higher speeds. If feasible, this by far would be the most cost-effective way to decrease the
      chicago to st louis total time

       

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