Monday, March 09, 2009

IL High-speed Rail Predicted To Get $500 M Stimulus - Develop Corridor Within 5 Years

Greg Hinz reports that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, at a Union Station appearance with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Amtrak Chair Tom Carper, said Illinois expects to get at least $500 million of the $8 billion stimulus money for high speed rail. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Senator Durbin said that he and Governor Quinn would work to develop a high speed rail corridor between Chicago and St. Louis within five years. You can listen to Governor Quinn's Q&A here (Update: the beginning and towards the end of the prior link deal with rail. This link of Senator Durbin and Governor Quinn contains *Much More Rail Discussion* - listen to it first).

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Blogger plaws said...

Sounds good. Any idea who actually gets the money? IDOT? A new agency?

More importantly, will they be smart and just implement MHSRA's plans??? :-)


3:24 PM  
Blogger David said...

What kind of HSR could they possibly get for a measely $500 M?

I'm guessing this will go to improving efficiency on the existing rail corridor. Maybe digging some grade separations?

8:54 PM  
Blogger David said...

Having listened to the announcement and read the Chicago-Sun Times article, I'd say this is certainly "incremental" improvement. I'd also say that, if all they can foresee doing is reducing the duration of a St. Louis to Chicago trip from 5 hours to 4 hours, they might as well spend the money on something else, because that small of an improvement is not going to lure more people out of their cars or airplanes to ride the rail. People can make the drive in 4 hrs 40 min, according to google maps.

My opinion: if we really want to take this country in a new direction, we need to build HSR with new, fully-grade-separated tracks. Slowly upgrading the trains we have is well and good, but it does not represent a change in direction.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Hiram said...

Hi Peter and David,

Thanks for writing!

Peter, I'm not blowing you off, but let me try to get more details - my impression is that things are different state to state with the stimulus and I don't want to misinform.

David, I think it likely we will need more than $500 million for the various HSR corridors (Greg Hinz mentions it here) - and I would anticipate additional funds from the state as well as future federal funding and possible funding from other sources. As far as whether the travel time is worth it - I think that this, while perhaps not as fast as we might wish, will be competitive with planes (for flights get there at least an hour early, the flight is around an hour, possible delays/baggage pick-up and then you need to go from O'Hare or Midway to (for many people) downtown - while HSR Union Station is downtown). Compared to cars you have the advantage of not driving (so you can do work, relax, sleep, etc), a shorter trip, and not having to worry about parking issues (which is no small thing in Chicago).

12:39 AM  
Blogger David said...

I hear what you're saying, and as a transit advocate myself those are the same arguments I would be making. But I'm worried that the majority of the public won't see it that way. They'll think: so it was 5 hours and now it's 4 hours? Whoopdeedoo. Just look at the comments on the Chicago-Sun-Times article about this. As of this comment, 17 out of 17 of those comments imply that the 1-hour time savings would not be worth it and that the money should be used for other things. You can tell that some of the commenters would like HSR if it was similar to European or Asian-style, 180 MPH + trains, but at 110 mph it's just not that exciting.

I think the midwest and the northeast should take a bigger step and propose a renovation of their systems that will allow true HSR to be built. They should be honest about this cost and make a bold step. This is the best time in recent history to try this, we shouldn't do it half-heartedly. The Kerry bill for HSR is sitting in committee, and the big transportation bill is coming up for renewal later this year. Both are potential sources of funding for HSR if we commit to it. I predict there would be a lot more positive responses to such a commitment than to this incremental stuff.

1:06 AM  
Blogger A Lynch said...

I think we can and should make a two pronged assault on rail service in this country. Upgrade the current system for passenger service at 110mph with off the shelf improvements and priority over freight. At the same time, build the seperate true HSR railways to connect major cities at speeds of 220 mph. This allows us to more quickly get improved rail service for minimal cost and bridge the time (10+ years) until the real HSR rolls out. Although it would be wonderful to focus all our energies on the true HSR, we can't wait a minimum of 10 years for any kind of improvement in rail service.

11:57 AM  
Blogger David said...

Well, A Lynch, it appears that is what we will be doing: The midwest and northeast will gradually improve their service, and California will risk it all on a big true HSR system. I suppose this makes sense, as both the northeast and midwest currently have better and more frequently used rail service connecting major cities than CA does, so CA really needs to make a major step to catch up with the rest of the world.

Should be interesting to watch.

12:13 PM  
Blogger plaws said...

California is not "risking it all" on an HSR system - they are spending, wisely IMHO, on upgrading existing facilities and have been doing so (without Federal help) for nearly two decades. As a result, the LOS-SAN and SJC-SAC corridors are two of the busiest corridors outside the northeast.

And all at 79 mph - imagine that.

Cutting the STL-CHI travel time by 20% will cause huge increases in rail travel between those two end-points (not to mention to Springfield and other intermediate cities). Just increasing the number of trains per day caused a huge bump on that corridor. Cut the speed and you'll see another bump ... regardless of what yahoos post on the Sun-Times website.

Go look at what needs to be done:

As I've said many times before and will continue to say, there is no justification for new LGVs where there is no pre-existing rail travel market.

2:55 PM  
Blogger David said...

Actually, plaws, the CA-HSR will be building large sections of brand new rail track. And the existing SJC to SAC and LOS-SAN rail lines will NOT be upgraded to HSR. Rather, the HSR project will build new rail along new rights-of-way. Between Los Angeles and San Diego, for example, the Amtrak surfliner travels along the coast. The HSR segment (which would be the second phase of construction after LOS-SFO) will go east to San Bernadino and then south from there, a much more circuitous route.

The rail links you mention have been maintained well, but the CA-HSR is largely an example of making a big leap through new construction, not gradual incremental change.

There are a few sections in Los Angeles and San Jose area where the HSR will share some rail tracks with other services, but the vast majority of the system will be brand new.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Anything short of completely (re) double tracking the route with CTC (in both directions) and appropriate cab signal technology is a waste of time and money. What good is 110mph going to do you if you still have to pull into a siding to wait for an opposing train and then back out of the same siding. All that accelerating and braking is hard on the equipment and a waste of fuel....

5:25 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

also....what of the other corridor's? (quincy/carbondale) Are they not worthy of track capacity improvments? We're only 10 days into the month of march and already #392 has been late into Chicago by over an hour twice, and late by over 30 mins three times.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Miss jane said...


4:02 AM  

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