Wednesday, November 05, 2014
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High-Speed Rail closer and closer to reality
Lincoln sees advances and hears latest

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[November 05, 2014]  LINCOLN - Last Thursday, representatives of the High-speed Rail Team and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) returned to Lincoln. In an open house style format representatives were prepared to update the public on progress of the high-speed rail and as it would affect travel through Lincoln at-grade rail crossings.

Guests were greeted and signed in and then were connected with team representatives who would answer questions.

The consulting groups have engaged with communities from the inception of the new project. The federal government committed $1.2 billion in economic stimulus funding in the $1.5 billion project. The Illinois Capitol Bill appropriated $400 million for high-speed rail.

Community involvement has been encouraged with a focus on improving rail safety at crossings.

The new rail system comes just in time to overhauling the aging rail line replacing cross timbers with safer concrete ballasts, new rock beds and rails. Not only do the upgrades offer faster and safer passenger travel, but also provides for continuing and expanded freight transportation.

Phil Pasterock of the High-Speed Rail Program Management Team (left) and Scott Speegle of IDOT walked guests through exhibits depicting at-grade plans for Lincoln crossings and about the full rail system renovation.

Pasterock emphasized that the at-grade rail crossings in Lincoln and other community areas along the line will feature the newest high-reliability safety features. Quad-gates that full block traffic from either direction, pedestrian gates, and loop detection that sends a signal to train engineers if there would be the presence of pedestrians or a vehicle on the track.


Safety has been the emphasis of this full project, from train passengers to vehicle drivers to pedestrians.

Already new concrete ballasts, rails and rock have been installed. Recently, attractive black wrought iron fencing that adds beauty and pedestrian safety has been added near Lincoln's downtown areas.

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Lincoln has seven at-grade crossings in town. At the request of the city of Lincoln Pekin Street will be closed off as part of the city's takeover of the Depot property. That is the only crossing that will have a change.

Illinois has five Chicago to Saint Louis trains running each day and one cross-country to Texas. The representatives said that the same number of passenger trains would continue to stop in Lincoln.

Travel times will gradually decrease as track work is completed and the new trains take to the tracks. Currently it takes 5.5 hours by train to travel the full route from Chicago to Saint Louis. That time will decrease in 2015 to 5 hours, and in 2017 to 4.5 hours.

By this time next year, November 2015, trains are expected to be running 110 mph on the 200-mile section between Dwight and Alton, and on the entire St. Louis-Chicago corridor by 2017. Test runs began in the fall of 2012 between Dwight and Pontiac.

Six sets of all new train engines and passenger cars are on order and expected to roll-out in 2016. ADA compliant, "These will be new double deck cars," Pasterock said.

Currently, train engines and cars are leased from Amtrak. Speegle said that the state will own the new cars and engines, but Amtrak would continue to be the operator as contracted.

Meal service will continue as currently offered, which is select café style items for sale on local runs, and a better quality, full meal on the long-distance trains.

[Jan Youngquist]

The Project Vision:

More than 90 percent of the over 35 million corridor trips have origins or destinations in Chicago or St. Louis. A more balanced transportation system in the corridor would provide travelers with greater mobility options. To achieve this, either a new transportation mode must be introduced, or improvements to an existing, less frequently used intercity passenger rail mode must be made. Reduced travel time, increased service reliability, and enhanced safety would attract travelers from automobile and air travel to a new or improved rail mode of transportation.

See more at the High-speed Rail website:

Past related articles

City considers closing Pekin Street crossing
Public hearing set for Monday

Historic Lincoln Depot to be restored to its original 1911 footprint

City Briefs:  Council tours depot

Mayor Keith Snyder offers a walk-through tour of the Lincoln Depot

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