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Springfield High-Speed Rail Project

Elected officials, residents, and the project team gathered for the Carpenter Street Underpass ribbon cutting ceremony on August 29, 2016. Photo credit: Hanson Professional Services Inc.

Originally built in 1973 to connect Chicago and Illinois’ state capital of Springfield, Amtrak’s State House line carves a path directly through the heart of downtown Springfield.

Later extended to St. Louis, the State House line continued to grow in use and popularity by both passenger and freight trains over the next few decades. As the city of Springfield also grew in size, the traffic congestion and delays caused by regular train crossings was becoming a major source of frustration among local residents.

Noise was also a concern. Train horns are required to be sounded at all public crossings to warn motorists and pedestrians when a train is approaching, 24 hours a day.

Data collected by the city on traffic delays caused by at-grade crossings confirmed what Springfield locals already knew – traffic congestion issue was worsening.

The report concluded: “With both car and train traffic projected to grow considerably in the intervening years…vehicle delays due to trains blocking crossings are projected to more than triple, from 13,800 vehicle-minutes per day today to 47,500 vehicle-minutes per day in 2030.”

When Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation announced plans in 2006 to upgrade its tracks to accommodate demand for high-speed passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Louis, the city of Springfield voiced strong concerns about further local disruption from freight and passenger trains.

Photo credit: Hanson Professional Services Inc.

Because the $1.95 billion project required completion of an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), federal official were able to work with city officials and local residents to identify a long-term solution that would be submitted in a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Serving as liaisons between Springfield and the federal project team, a Stakeholder Advisory Group was formed that helped to identify and address key local concerns, provide community input, and build public trust in the project.

The final supplemental EIS concluded that the most effective solution would be to reroute trains from the historical 3rd Street corridor to the 10th Street while also adding several underpasses and one overpass.

After securing nearly $1.65 in federal funding, Amtrak broke ground on the $314 million Springfield project in 2014. The current 5 1/2-hour trip between St. Louis and Chicago has been cut by 22 minutes following improvements to tracks in Joliet and Springfield.

Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said in an interview with The State Journal-Register that top speeds of 100mph should save passengers a total of 53 minutes when the project is completed in 2019, pending installation of automated train-control and detection technology required for faster trains.

Speed limits in Springfield’s 3rd Street corridor are also slated to rise following completion of the project. The current speed limit is 25 mph; the limit will be raised by five miles per hour each week until it reaches 40 mph.

 

[1] “Springfield Rail Improvements Project.” Hanson Professional Services, Inc. Available at:
http://springfieldrailroad.com/newsite/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29&Itemid=28

[2] “Record of Decision for the Springfield Rail Improvements Project.” U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration. December 2012. Available at:
https://www.fra.dot.gov/Elib/Document/2777

[3] “Trains start moving faster along Springfield’s Third Street corridor.” The State Journal Register, October 22, 2018. Available at:
https://www.sj-r.com/news/20181022/trains-to-start-moving-faster-along-springfields-third-street-corridor

[4] “Illinois’ $2 billion, high-speed rail project in final phase.” The State Journal Register. December 15, 2017. Available at:
https://www.sj-r.com/news/20171215/illinois-2-billion-high-speed-rail-project-in-final-phase

 

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