The Midwest, or “Chicago Hub,” Network is a 3,000-mile hub-and-spoke system radiating out of Chicago to serve every major city within a 400-mile radius. With track improvements, advanced signaling equipment and safer grade crossings, it will become a modernized, higher-speed network serving 27 million people, including seven metro regions of at least 1 million people. With a total GDP of over $25 billion, the Midwest is the world’s 7th largest economy.
As of July 2012, here are some updates on key lines of the Midwest Network:
Chicago to Detroit
The Midwest is now home to the first higher-speed rail service outside the Northeast: In February, 2012, Amtrak began 110 mph service on 80 miles of the Chicago – Detroit corridor owned by Amtrak. The speed increase was enabled by the installation of a positive train control system and track improvements along the route between Porter, IN, and Kalamazoo, MI.
The federal government is investing over $600 million for new infrastructure and signaling along the 280-mile corridor, which will allow for 110 mph operation on 77% of the route. It will also place 70% of the line into public ownership.
The Michigan cities of Troy and Dearborn are building new multi-modal facilities to seamlessly link passenger rail with bus, bicycle, pedestrian and road traffic. Multi-modal connectivity ensures ‘investment-worthy communities’ that support business and leisure travel.
Chicago to St. Louis
Work is progressing on track and safety improvements to the Chicago – St. Louis corridor. Illinois was awarded $1.1 billion in ARRA grants to replace and improve 183 miles of track along the route. Ridership on the Chicago – St. Louis line has more than doubled in the last five years. By the end of 2014, the line is expected to operate at 110 mph for 75% of its route. Once construction is complete, travelers can expect reductions of more than an hour in trip time as well as improved on-time performance. Illinois has future plans to increase train frequencies and further reduce trip times in the coming years.
The announcement of high-performance passenger rail spurred major economic development in Normal, IL, a city along the corridor. A new train station there was made possible by a combination of federal, state and local funding, including a $22 million TIGER grant. More than $200 million in private funds have already been invested in anticipation of the new rail line and station, including the construction of a new conference center and hotel. Uptown Normal, where the train station is located, is a walk-able community brimming with economic activity. Property values are expected to rise further despite the national economic climate.
Chicago to Quad Cities
Work will soon commence to construct a new passenger line between Chicago and the Quad Cities on the Illinois-Iowa border, with a potential extension to Iowa City. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the project a $230 million federal grant. The upgraded track and infrastructure will begin hosting Amtrak passenger trains in 2014.