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IDOT, railroads reach $1.1 billion deal on high-speed rail – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register

Billions of dollars in federal grants for high-speed rail had been tied up across the nation while states and private railroads, which are supposed to provide rights of way, negotiated agreements aimed at ensuring adequate room for both freight and passenger trains. Rail companies had balked at proposals that they would have to pay financial penalties if passenger trains don’t run on time.

Flatau said he believes Illinois is the first state to negotiate an agreement with the Union Pacific, the nation’s largest railroad.


IDOT, railroads reach $1.1 billion deal on high-speed rail – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

2 Responses

  1. LoboSolo says:

    “Furthermore, when the federal government announced the grants nearly a year ago, the White House press office issued a release stating that speeds would reach as high as 110 mph.”

    It’s an insult to HSR to have the FRA define anything below 110 mph (or better, 120 mph as in Europe) as “high speed”. It may be HPR (High Performance Rail) … but it’s not HSR. If a private company were to do that, it’d probably be sued for false advertisement.

  2. December 28, 2010

    A One Billion Dollar Federal Grant to Reduce Travel Time by 48 Minutes (and Increase Average Train Speed by 10 mph)

    An Editorial Comment


    The Illinois Department of Transportation has reached a cooperative agreement with Union Pacific and Amtrak that will permit the release of a $1.1 billion federal high-speed rail grant to the state of Illinois to fund passenger rail improvements between Chicago and St. Louis. The agreement was proclaimed by state and federal officials as “historic” and hailed as “one giant step closer to achieving high-speed passenger service between Chicago and St. Louis.” But stripped of its rhetoric, the announcement only reveals how inadequate and cost-ineffective the Administration’s “high–speed” program is turning out to be.

    The billion dollar program of improvements, to be completed by 2014, will enable “higher-speed” trains to travel between Chicago and St. Louis in 4 hours and 32 minutes, cutting present trip time by 48 minutes, according to the announcement. As the Springfield Journal Register pointedly observed, that is 22 minutes longer than the trip time of 4 hours and 10 minutes promised in the original grant application. A four-hour trip time was also pledged by the White House in its press release announcing the project last January.

    Currently Amtrak operates passenger service between Chicago and St. Louis at an average speed of 53 mph. The announcement is silent about the expected increase in the average speed when the project is completed but our calculations suggest that the planned track upgrades would raise average speeds only by 10 mph, to 63 mph. Of the 284-mile Chicago-St. Louis route, a total of 210 miles of track will be ready for 110 mph operation under the present grant. Upgrading the remaining 74 miles of the line, between Dwight and Chicago, would have to await further federal aid. The State of Illinois originally requested $3 billion to complete the total project.

    From what we can read between the lines, Union Pacific drove a hard bargain as a condition of signing the cooperative agreement. “Our priority in working out this agreement,” the company’s CEO, Jim Young said in a prepared statement, “was to protect Union Pacific’s ability to provide the exceptional freight service our customers need and expect. … This agreement allows us to deliver on those customer commitments.” The message is clear: UP’s freight operations will take precedence over passenger rail operations. The route, we are told, needs to accommodate as many as 22 freight trains a day ultimately.

    Union Pacific also seems to have won out on another contentious issue. The cooperative agreement is silent about any penalties the railroad might face if on-time performance standards for passenger service are not met – a condition that the Federal Railroad Administration had insisted upon in its initial (and later withdrawn) guidelines concerning the terms of the cooperative agreements.

    The announcement, released on December 23, barely two weeks before a new Congress takes office, was meant to give a boost to a program that is barely limping along. The record speak for itself. Two major high-speed rail projects — in Wisconsin and Ohio— have been cancelled by the incoming governors because of the cost burden the operation of the new rail services would impose on the state taxpayers. The Florida Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed line is still in doubt as Gov.-elect Rick Scott ponders its questionable cost and economics. The California high-speed rail program, with its starter line in the sparsely populated Central Valley, has been ridiculed as “the railroad to nowhere.” And several HSR cooperative agreements remain stalled in contentious negotiations. It’s not surprising that the Administration would be anxious to show progress and refute the widely held impression that the program is on its last legs. This is not how it was all supposed to end.

    Whether the program will come to an untimely end will depend on the next Congress. The signals from Capitol Hill do not sound encouraging. To the incoming Republican lawmakers, eager to make good on their promise to cut federal spending, any unspent HSR funds will present a tempting target for rescission. As for future appropriations for the program, they will have to compete with other urgent transportation priorities amid pressures to trim discretionary spending and Congressman Mica’s announced intent to revisit the program and refocus it in ways that, in his words, “makes sense.”

    It’s not a scenario that will offer high-speed rail advocates much cheer in the New Year.

    Kenneth Orski Editor/Publisher
    Innovation NewsBriefs

    Note: the NewsBriefs can also be accessed at

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