City of Champaign weighs in on Amtrak route changes
Today's News-Gazette has a story by Mike Monson explaining how the owner of the track between Carbondale and Chicago (the CN Railroad) plans to abandon the last five miles of track before Union Station if they get approval to buy another Chicago-area railroad.
Here's the heart of the matter (as concisely explained as only a journalist can do):
I hope the State of Illinois takes the same stance that the City of Champaign just took on the issue.
According to a city memo on the issue, Canadian National has asked the Surface Transportation Board to allow it to purchase the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway in order to bypass downtown Chicago. Canadian National is seeking expedited hearings on the request, city planner T.J. Blakeman said.
The purchase of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway would not necessarily cause a delay in Amtrak lines, but Blakeman said Canadian National has also indicated its eventual intention to abandon, with two other owners, the St. Charles Air Way, an elevated line that leads into Chicago's Union Station.
That abandonment wouldn't be a problem if Amtrak were to use the Norfolk Southern Railroad at Grand Crossing, near 75th Street and South Chicago Avenue in Chicago, as a route into Union Station. In fact, such a route would actually save 15 to 20 minutes each trip, Blakeman said.
But the problem is that a new connection would have to be built at Grand Crossing, at an estimated cost of $25 million, before that would be a feasible alternative.
Otherwise, Amtrak lines rerouted into Union Station could take longer than they currently do, he said.
And at this point, it isn't clear which entity would be responsible for constructing the connection, he said.
And I hope every state and municipality along the entire City of New Orleans corridor takes the same view.
This purchase could really improve passenger rail -- *if* we get the right investments in infrastructure (particularly the Grand Crossing).
It's so dumb that we have to back in to Union Station now for all Champaign-Carbondale-Memphis-New Orleans travel.If we can fix that 20 minute problem and improve freight rail flows in Illinois, all the better.
For background on the issue, see the Midwest High Speed Rail Association's fact sheet on the CN and the EJ&E.