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Thursday, August 13, 2009

High speed rail

Is everyone sick of hearing about high speed rail yet? Good, because that's not going to happen. At least not in Springfield for a very, very long time. Instead, if we don't mess it up, we may be getting something called "faster trains." That would be trains traveling at speeds a little faster than the speeds of the current Amtrak trains.

Work will need to be done and money will need to be spent to accomplish this. And because this is Illinois and this is Springfield, politics, and dare I say fear, have entered into the equation. The mayor has his agenda, and the railroad has another, not to mention the citizens and businesses. It's all a very big deal and very complicated.

SJ-R: Fast trains on 3rd St. could close roads
Mayor Tim Davlin, who backs using the 10th Street rail corridor for more and faster trains, said Wednesday that having them on Third Street would be “devastating to downtown, to the neighborhoods, to the city in general.”
“The only mitigation is to have huge overpasses. We can’t have underpasses ... our main sewer line runs down Third Street, so our only thing is to have major overpasses in places like going over the Dana-Thomas House, going over downtown at Madison and Jefferson, and we’ve got a medical district.”

And this little gem:

“The high speed rail will create an east-west Berlin Wall between the residential part of the Medical District on the east and the hospital and research centers on the west,” Enos Park neighborhood association president Steve Combs wrote to a representative of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. “As an association, we are ready to do whatever you request in preventing Third Street from becoming the high speed rail site. We’re ready to lay down on the tracks if needed!”

Here is one select comment from the article:

John_Locke: If crossing must be closed for high speed rails, then I am against high speed rails.

A question:

Steven Black: The Tenth Street corridor is preferable to the Third Street corridor. But if we were ever to follow the recommendations of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association for expansion to two separate routings, then perhaps another corridor should be found. Unfortunately, drilling through an urban area with more train traffic may not be ideal. However, with good mass transit connections, downtown can still be well-served, even if the station is on the outskirts of the city. Thoughts?

An answer:

217: Steven, Has anyone looked at Stanford Avenue from 11th to 6th Street for a high speed passenger station? Look at the map. We're eventually going to extend Stanford east to Dirksen Parkway, anyway. So, why not make the railway follow Stanford all the way while we're at it. It seems like a good idea to me, and I live two blocks from Stanford.

Fascinating, because that's my neighborhood. So, I put together a map.

  • The blue line is what is referred to as the Third Street tracks and is where the current passenger railroad tracks exist, and where the Union Pacific wants to keep it. The blue pin is where the current station is.
  • The red line is what is referred to as the 10th Street tracks and is where the mayor and various other factions want to have the high speed rail and a new passenger station with transportation hub. I didn't mark the station or hub, but it's about straight east of the current passenger train station.
  • The green line is a couple different rail lines. The north-south part is what I call the coal train line, and the east-west part is what I call the old Allis-Chalmers line. But, I'm sure both of those names are wrong. Note the green pin would be the location of a passenger train station.

All these lines currently exist and are connected at various points north and south. (And keep reading past the map because there's one more thing.)

View High Speed in a larger map

Since we're going to do transportation right (that's what it's all about, right?), we should connect some of these smaller towns to the railroad by something other than the automobile. I would suggest an express, or semi-express, light passenger electric rail connecting the following communities to Springfield:

  • Jacksonville
  • Willoughby
  • Pleasant Plains
  • Chatham
  • Pawnee Junction
  • Taylorville
  • Edinburg
  • Rochester
  • Illiopolis
  • Petersburg
  • Athens
  • Elkhart
  • Williamsville

A sort of interurban system. I decided to save my idea for a heliport for another day.

For more background, see also: 40 trains a day on the Third Street tracks?

Posted by Marie at August 13, 2009 10:07 PM


I like the idea of passenger trains and loved all of my experiences on the Illinois Central growing up but I wonder how cost effective they are in American society, where the freedom of a vehicle is so ingrained in our psyche. Will we ever accept trains as a primary mode of transportation like our European counterparts?

Posted by: Rob Author Profile Page at August 14, 2009 8:44 AM

They're planning to shoot the bullet trains right through the middle of several small towns here, including Lemont and Lockport which are full of 19th Century buildings that practically hug the existing rail lines. I can't even imagine how these downtowns will be destroyed. They really need to build bypasses around those downtowns where the trains won't be stopping anyway. And I like your interurban idea. It won't fit perfectly with the far-flung sprawl that developed to accomodate cars, but it's still a good solution.

Posted by: Pete at August 14, 2009 9:42 AM

Good analysis, Marie. The gereen line gets closer to getting the trains out of town but not quite. I really wish the money was there to have the freight trains bypass the city and leave only Amtrak to use the 3rd St tracks.

Posted by: Dave at August 14, 2009 9:56 AM

Thanks for all your comments, everybody.

Rob, That IC was and is sure something. Wish they still had passenger trains.


Pete, Same in Springfield with the old houses (those that we haven't already tore down, anyway).

Dave, I'm afraid if Springfield doesn't get its act together, this whole thing will get so messed up and bogged down, that they may just end up running the train past Springfield without stopping.

Posted by: Marie at August 14, 2009 8:05 PM

Thanks for posting this. Your first paragraph does a much better job of explaining what is happening than all the articles in the SJ-R and the Mayor do.

Posted by: Kath at August 14, 2009 8:34 PM

Thank you, Kath. The explanation may be subject to change.

Posted by: Marie at August 14, 2009 9:27 PM

Rob's got a point about whether high-speed rail will ever be a big thing (in California, where I live, more than 70 percent of the voters approved a $10 billion bond for a system here. The complainers are now turning up the volume). One thing's for sure, though: No one will ever ride it if it ain't built. I'd add that "inconvenience" is not a reason to block construction. In fact, all of our modern "conveniences" depend on inconveniencing someone and sometimes everyone (you know this if you've ever lived next to a busy highway, a rail line, any kind of factory, or high-voltage power transmission lines).

Posted by: Dan at August 18, 2009 2:01 AM

Regarding the map...the line shown in red would be Norfolk Southern's Detroit - Kansas City mainline. The only inaccuracy is that it is shown as going directly north from Starnes when it actually goes east from there. The line shown in red going north from Starnes has been gone for years. Same for the line shown in green (except for the east-west portion shown at the bottom).

The north-south track shown between the red and green lines is Canadian National's ex-Illinois Central Gilman - Farmersville line. It runs directly northeast from Starnes.

Posted by: David P. Jordan at August 19, 2009 7:59 AM

Good points, Dan. The complainers here are complaining against the wrong thing, in my opinion.

David, thank you for the corrections. I should have gone over to see where those tracks connected (or used to connect.)

Posted by: Marie at August 19, 2009 8:25 AM

Also, last summer when the Amtrak station downtown was closed because of the UP's rail upgrades, I saw Amtrak going down the Stanford part of the green line. That's where I got the idea to do the map when I saw the comment in the SJ-R.

Posted by: Marie at August 19, 2009 8:39 AM

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