Friday, April 18, 2008

Iowa City - Quad Cities - Chicago study released today

The appetite for Amtrak expansion is growing.

Today the Iowa Department of Transportation and Amtrak released a study detailing potential expansion of service from Chicago to the Quad Cities and on to Iowa City.\

The range of services range from as-is service (toddling around at 45 mph or so) to 79 mph, with corresponding capital costs of $6M (cheap!) to almost $60M (much cheaper than repaving a couple dozen miles of highway).

The annual operating cost for two daily round-trips would run around $6M (very cheap).

There's a good presentation that lays out the options.

What is shocking to me is how cheap it is to get as-is service up and running. Six million dollars to get Amtrak service from Iowa City to the Quad Cities and then up to Chicago (largely because two-thirds of the route is on a great BNSF line that currently runs out to Quincy twice a day) is nothing in the land of state budgets.

Now let's get that six million!


Blogger Jennifer said...

Does this mean the train would be called the Hawkeye?

4:44 PM  
Blogger Christopher Parker said...

I think you really want at least 59 mph service, even if it means buying the Iowa Interstate new rail. Sounds like a bit more than 6 million, then?

10:07 AM  
Blogger plaws said...

Apparently most of IAIS's plant is already good for higher speeds, i.e. 79 mph. All it lacks is signals (and surely crossing warning upgrades).

I agree, though, get it up and running now and do the upgrades to 79 mph over the next few years.

Two issues that need to be overcome:

o paths on the BNSF line into Chicago which is already choked with freight, Metra and Amtrak

o cars - IDOT should buy its own rather than pay Amtrak to rebuild 30+ year old Amfleet wrecks. That would further insulate IDOT from Amtrak's issues.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Dan Johnson said...

I don't know what it would be called. Hawkeye sounds fine. And for me, I don't really care what it is if we can get it up and running this year. People will ride the train even if it is slow, as long as it is relatively reliable. We can improve the average speed of the train later when Illinois spends some capital dollars. But that isn't likely to happen for a long time (in my view). The BNSF is a great host railroad and can handle two more round-trips a day. Equipment is an issue, but that's something that can be figured out.

1:39 AM  
Blogger neroden@gmail said...

The price tag unfortunately doesn't account for Amtrak's shortage of rolling stock.

If Illinois, or Iowa, bought its own new set of carriages, this could get running right away. If Illinois bought a full fleet of "Illinois cars", it would also have a lot of knock-on benefits. Lengthen the trains on other corridor lines. Replace all the old cars used on Illinois corridors with up-to-date cars. Switch to multilevels or bilevels -- I think there aren't very many low bridges or tunnels to consider. Have cars ready for service expansions on existing corridors and to new corridors. The Amfleet and Horizon stock could be refurbished in Amtrak's shops without a rush. They would add flexibility to train runs throughout the rest of the country, but particularly in the Northeast.

There are enough paths on the BNSF line to fit in twice-daily runs; it's not really "choked" and still has good on-time performance. This is because it is a three track line along pretty much its entire distance. At some point parts of it will likely have to be upgraded to four tracks, but with modern signalling, you can run a *huge* number of trains through a three-track system. Basically, you have a "toward-Chicago" line, an "away-from-Chicago" line, and a central line for fast trains to pass slower ones. (The only bottlenecks are flat junctions and in-line station platforms; and it's already been grade-separated from a lot of the intersecting lines.)

If only Conrail had left three of the four original running tracks intact from Englewood to South Chicago (instead of the two which currently exist), the Amtrak routes to the east would similarly have plenty of capacity.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about the use of electro magnetic rails???

10:57 PM  
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2:06 AM  

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