High-speed rail construction is in its fourth season in Illinois with $1.45 billion in contracts awarded for projects ranging from track and signal upgrades to environmental studies.
Work this year concentrates on sidings and design of the automated control system for faster passenger and freight trains, according to a summer 2013 update from the Illinois Department of Transportation. The goal is regular 110-mph Amtrak service on most of the St. Louis-Chicago corridor in 2015.
“Expansion of 110-mph service to about two-thirds of the corridor is expected in the fourth quarter of 2015,” IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller said in an email Monday. Amtrak started 110-mph speeds last fall on the northern end of the Lincoln Service route, between Dwight and Pontiac.
The federal government has awarded Illinois about $1.45 billion toward upgrades between Chicago and St. Louis. Still more money is being sought, including for consolidation of Third and 10th street trains on 10th Street in Springfield.
High-speed rail supporters also announced Monday separate funding would be sought to improve capacity at Union Station in Chicago. About half the cost of contracts awarded as of June 2013 have been for rail and structure upgrades, according to the IDOT update. Another $211 million is for new passenger cars and equipment, and $211.4 million for design, construction and other professional services.
Miller said about $350 million actually has been spent to date on the rail work in Illinois. She said construction in 2014 and 2015 would concentrate on 13 new sidings, purchase and installation of automated train-control systems, crossing upgrades and new equipment.
Lincoln Service passengers will switch to charter buses for eight days starting Aug. 16 to accommodate bridge and culvert work north of Bloomington, according to an announcement from Amtrak and IDOT. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said, despite construction disruptions, more than 551,000 passengers took Lincoln Service trains through the first nine months of the federal fiscal year that started Oct. 1.
The number is up 4 percent from the same nine-month period the previous fiscal year and on pace for a record. Amtrak has accommodated the steady increase by refurbishing and returning old passenger cars to service. The first new passenger cars are not scheduled for delivery until early 2016. “People have been more flexible in their schedules,” said Magliari. “We haven’t had any change to our capacity. It’s why we needed to get the additional cars.”
The Midwest High Speed Rail Association also has begun lobbying for federal funding to expand capacity at Union Station in Chicago. Executive director Rick Harnish said Monday the station has become a passenger bottleneck, especially as Amtrak use continues to grow. “We need to figure out how to get some federal money flowing, so we can get moving on a lot of these things,” said Harnish. “They should be doing it now.”
High-speed price tag
Breakdown of $1.45 billion in contracts for high-speed rail work in Illinois as of June 2013:
* Track and structures: $726.3 million
* Professional services (design, environmental studies, program management): $211.4 million
* Cars and equipment: $211 million
* Signal and communications upgrades: $183.9 million
* Grade crossing approaches, bridges, fencing and related work: $61.6 million
* Station upgrades: $40 million
* Land acquisition: $16.3 million
Source: Ilinois Department of Transportation