COLUMBUS, Ohio - A plan to give people a new high speed option for traveling from Columbus to Chicago is picking up steam.
The idea is about a rail line that connects Ohio with the Windy City, and it’s now one step closer to reality.
For now, the quickest way to get to Chicago is by plane and it could cost hundreds of dollars for a round trip.
But there is renewed interest in bringing a high-speed passenger rail line to Columbus.
Deborah Guy loves to travel, but because of a medical condition, her mobility is limited. She drives to move of the places she visits, but she has used high speed passenger rail in other cities. ”I like the convenience. I like the accessibility. I can pretty much leave my car at home when I go to those cities and then travel on public transportation,” Guy said.
Illinois Department of Transportation has awarded a three-year, US$9.8m (£6m) contract for the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) covering the expansion of high-speed rail between Granite City, Illinois, and St Louis, Missouri.
Michael Baker Jr will serve as the lead consultant for the project team, which includes STV Incorporated as its joint venture partner and eight additional consultants.
Baker will lead the environmental analysis effort for the roughly 20-mile corridor, provide preliminary engineering for the planned structures, and author the EIS document for approval by the Federal Railroad Administration. The project will include the study of a new rail bridge crossing the Mississippi River and will require the coordination and cooperation of Illinois and Missouri as well as two railroads and several local agencies.
“This project represents one of the first steps in an eventual system linking the major cities of the Midwest and enhancing the economic viability of the region,” said Baker project manager John O’Neill.
If your dream is a high-speed rail connecting Chicago and the rest of the Midwest, then your nightmare might be that same train with no one on it.
The issue of density is at the heart of high-speed rail plans, and any major transportation project, in the United States. If you build it, will they come?
“We have the density,” said Rick Harnish, executive director of the Illinois High Speed Rail Association. “There’s no question at this point. [The skeptics] are luddites. End of story.”
WASHINGTON — New polling shows Americans across the ideological spectrum support more public funding of Amtrak passenger rail service.
“We polled people who mostly do not live in large passenger rail regions, and yet they overwhelmingly said they want the same level of or more federal funding for Amtrak,” said John Previsich, president of the SMART-Transportation Division. “What’s interesting about this poll is that a majority of Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike all want to maintain or expand Amtrak service. It is now time for Congress to listen.”
In a poll conducted by DFM Research of St. Paul, Minn., from February to September 2013, eight districts in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri were polled and 70 percent of respondents said they support a robust federal government role in funding Amtrak. And in Illinois’ 3rd District, which includes the Chicago Amtrak hub, the percentage jumped to 80 percent.
The Obama administration had grand plans for a national high-speed rail network, but they didn’t stay grand very long. After the 2010 midterm elections, new Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida spoiled hopes of such a system by rejecting federal money for routes through their states. At the time, the three governors cited fiscal responsibility as their official reasoning, but the situation always had the feel of political collusion.
A new report in the Tampa Tribune adds some spice to that notion. The paper details an interesting exchange between one of these governors, Rick Scott of Florida, and Paula Dockery, a (now former) political ally who favored the proposed high-speed route from Tampa to Orlando. Dockery tells the paper that Scott promised her in February 2011 that he’d accept $2.4 billion in federal money pledged for the project — in no uncertain terms:
Dockery said she warned Scott he would get intense pressure from fellow Republicans to reject it “because it looks like Obama wins” if the project succeeds.
“There were other Republican governors who were turning down rail money,” she said in the interview. “That was kind of the national plan of the Republican governors.”
“He said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ … His mind already was made up,” she added. “There was no misinterpretation.”
TAMPA — Former state Sen. Paula Dockery, a former political ally of Gov. Rick Scott but now a critic, says Scott assured her shortly after taking office in early 2011 that he planned to accept $2.4 billion in federal economic stimulus money for a Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail system.
That was days before he announced he was rejecting the money, creating a national political stir.
In an interview and at a recent Tiger Bay Club speech, Dockery said Scott made her the promise during a private conversation after a dinner at the governor’s mansion in early February 2011.
She said Scott also told her he hoped to stop work on another rail project, the SunRail central Florida commuter line, which had passed the state Legislature before he took office. Scott later approved continuing SunRail.
Amtrak passengers in and out of Chicago’s Union Station jumped by more than 39,000 last fiscal year, helping fuel a record high in Amtrak ridership nationally, Amtrak data indicated Monday.
Union Station’s 3.5 million riders helped Chicago hold steady as the fourth-busiest station in the nation for Amtrak. Tops was New York City with more than 9.55 million riders; then No. 2 Washington D.C. with more than 5 million; followed by No. 3 Philadelphia, with more than 4.1 million.
Chicago’s ridership inched up by 1 percent in the 2013 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, or by 39,075 riders.
But it was up a hefty 14 percent from five years ago. That’s 441,824 new riders since 2009.
After finishing a class in Champaign, a student boards a train to the University of Illinois at Springfield to attend his next class on that campus.
Once that class is finished, the student waits at the station for the next train to Chicago’s campus so he can attend a professor’s lecture. After a long day of classes, the student then takes the train home just in time for dinner.
This kind of high-speed rail service has yet to be built in Illinois, but according to a recent study by the University’s Rail Transportation and Engineering Center, or RailTEC, and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Urban Transportation Center, the cost of building such a service, while substantial, is feasible.
The final phase of Illinois’ more than $1.6 billion venture into high-speed rail begins this week south of Springfield.
Train service at 110 mph remains at least a couple of years away.
“I know their target is still 2015 for the segment between Dwight and Alton,” said Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, a key proponent of speedier passenger train service.
Trains at 110 mph between Dwight and Joliet started last fall.
JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) – Some Amtrak train passengers are boarding the bus Monday because some of the track, between Jackson and Dearborn, is closed for construction. The work is part of the Federally-funded project that will bring faster train service to Amtrak’s Wolverine Line running across Michigan.
The rail improvements between Jackson and Dearborn are the first phase of the three-part Accelerated Rail Program. Phase one is slated for completion by the end of November.
Eastbound and westbound tracks between Jackson and Dearborn will be closed Monday through Thursday for the remainder of September. Crews will work 10-hour days to complete the upgrades and get trains between Jackson and Dearborn running. This first phase alone, which also includes upgrading electronics, once complete, should shorten travel time between Chicago and Detroit 30 minutes.