Midwest Rail Lives! Work Underway in Four States

Intercity rail dreams in the Midwest have certainly seen their share of  setbacks — with federal funds being returned in Ohio, Wisconsin and, more recently, Michigan. But all is far from lost.

Plans for intercity rail that will travel as fast as 110 miles per hour are well underway between Chicago and St. Louis. Photo: ##http://idothsr.org/## Illinois Department of Transportation##

Yesterday, U.S. DOT announced a $186 million grant to Illinois DOT to upgrade the line between Chicago and Joilet — about 40 miles southwest of Chicago — one of the final segments to be built in the 284-mile Chicago to St. Louis line.

The project will allow trains to travel up to 110 miles per hour and, when completed, will save travelers about an hour, U.S. DOT reports. That’s good news for the about 35 million people travel the corridor annually. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, about 90 percent of those trips end at either terminal: St. Louis or Chicago.

Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana are all in the midst of upgrading intercity rail lines as well, although it might not be accurate to describe many of these projects as true high-speed rail. (True HSR runs at an average speed of 110 miles per hour, as opposed to a maximum of 110.)

Michigan has funds for line upgrades between Kalamazoo and Dearborn — just outside Detroit. Meanwhile, Amtrak will be completing the remainder of the Detroit-Chicago link west of Kalamazoo to Chicago. The line will top out at 110 mph, said Richard Harnish, Executive Director of Midwest High Speed Rail Alliance.

In addition, Minnesota has begun an environmental review process to upgrade and modernize rail connections between St. Paul and Chicago. The state is also beginning the environmental review process on a true HSR link between the Twin Cities and Rochester, Minnesota, where the Mayo Clinic is located.

Indiana, meanwhile, is taking responsibility for the portion of the St. Louis–Chicago line that lies between its borders.

Harnish said the country has slowly been moving toward modern rail transportation for decades — in fits and starts. Despite vested interests that seek to maintain the status quo, he is optimistic.

“I truly believe that there is a strong desire at the ground level to have better ways to travel and that there is a desire to have high-quality passenger trains,” he said. “If we can organize that base, we will get policies changed in DC.”

  • Andy K

    Indiana would be upgrading the line between Detroit and Chicago

  • Barry is just buying votes with taxpayer money – and debt.

  • We can’t afford existing local and long-haul passenger service, why are we throwing more money down the toilet?

    What difference does it make if people spend 4 1/2 hrs on the train vs 5 1/2?  It’s still about the same time it would take if you drove – and you’d still need a car at the other end.

  • Anonymous

    This is great news. This upgrades to 110mph trains will make intercity rail for the area competitive with air travel like it is in New York to Washington rather than strictly car travel for the less informed. Not to mention that with limited or semi local stops it will be of maximum utility to commuters who have workplaces a touch too far/too expensive to drive to daily. These upgrades will also make moving freight a lot more reliable and there will be fewer delays on both parties. Let’s hope they don’t stop there because nationally we are only at about where Germany and the UK was in the 1960s, but with a strategy of rehabbing and upgrading existing corridors (like Los Angeles-San Diego and this one) and upgrading the connecting distance tracks (many in the west have 90mph speed limits with automatic train stop for emergencies) we will have something great for the test of time on our hands when air travel and private autos become less feasible due to fuel cost.

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