News

Chicago Sun-Times: Quinn announces $102 million investment for high-speed rail

9/2/14

A key swath of the high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis is set to get $102 million in upgrades, Gov. Pat Quinn announced on Sunday.

Officials plan to build a second set of tracks between downstate Mazonia and Elwood and a new bridge over the Kankakee River between Joliet and Dwight.

The two-year project will reduce travel times between Chicago and St. Louis from five-and-a-half hours to four-and-a-half hours, Quinn said in a written statement.

Once completed, the improvements put the final upgrades in place between Joliet and Dwight in anticipation of the eventual double-tracking of the remainder of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor. This double-tracking will then allow more daily round-trips at increased 110-mph speeds. Trains now travel at 110 mph between Dwight and Pontiac.

The state has committed $358.8 million to the Chicago-St. Louis route, with the remainder of the $1.7 billion project federally funded.

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WSIL-TV: Illinois Lawmaker Speaks Out About Amtrak Delays

8/26/14

CARBONDALE — Senator Dick Durbin says problems with Canadian National are slowing down Amtrak riders from Carbondale to Chicago.

Durbin sent a letter to CN three weeks ago and says he’s still not received a response. He says the delays are caused by freight trains blocking passenger railways. Durbin wants Canadian National to move quickly on the problems.

Joined by Carbondale officials Saturday morning, Durbin pointed out the record levels of Amtrak delays along the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route. He calls it the worst in the nation for on-time performance.

“I want Canadian National to know, and all of the people that do business with the railroad, that we expect a response, a positive response to all of these issues including Amtrak service,” said Durbin.

Carbondale Mayor Don Monty, SIU, and Amtrak representatives were all there to share about rider experience. College students are a large population that use the train several times a year.

“Students like myself will go to a school to where they can have easy transportation to and from home, to and from other campuses,” said student Brione Lockett.

SIU students like Lockett and Derrick Langston said delays to and from Chicago are an inconvenience for them and parents. Langston has been dealing with the issue since his first trip in 2006.

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Associated Press: Indiana passenger rail extended 4 months

8/26/14

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Department of Transportation and seven local partners have agreed to continue funding Hoosier State passenger rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago through Jan. 31 while the state negotiates with a private vendor to operate the line.

INDOT announced the four-month extension beginning Oct. 1 in a deal with Amtrak and the communities of Indianapolis, Beech Grove, Crawfordsville, Rensselaer, Lafayette, West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County.

INDOT is also negotiating with Corridor Capital LLC to improve the rail service and its funding model by the end of the contract extension in January.

Indianapolis initially planned to pull out of the funding arrangement Oct. 1, but public works spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson says it will continue paying $25,000 per month to give Corridor Capital time to succeed.

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TIME: The Truth About Obama’s High-Speed Rail Program

8/18/14

The New York Times has declared President Barack Obama’s high-speed rail program a failure. “Despite the administration spending nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, the projects have gone mostly nowhere,” America’s paper of recordreported Aug. 6—in its news pages, not its opinion section. The story quickly rocketed into Republican talking points and conservative op-eds as fresh evidence of presidential haplessness.

But it’s wrong. The administration hasn’t spent anywhere near $11 billion. The projects haven’t gone mostly nowhere. There are legitimate questions about the high-speed rail initiative—and the administration’s hype has outstripped its ability to deliver in an era of divided government—but the public debate over the program has been almost completely detached from the reality on the ground.

Here’s the real story.

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New York Times Ed Board: Making the Case for High-Speed Rail

8/18/14

Most American passenger trains, including Amtrak’s popular Acela service, run at speeds that are far slower than the superfast European and Japanese trains that can zip along at 200 miles per hour or more. The main reason is that, despite modest investments, American lawmakers have not given high-speed rail the priority it deserves.

High-speed rail can play an important role in the nation’s transportation system by reducing congestion at airports and on highways. It can also provide a big economic boost while helping to reduce pollution that is causing climate change. That is why President Obama gave it an important place in the 2009 stimulus bill, which helped kick-start projects to upgrade rail lines and build new ones around the country.

Since then, the federal government has spent about $11 billion on high-speed rail, with only a few visible improvements in American passenger rail service, as a recent Times article pointed out. That should not come as a surprise. Bringing high-speed rail service to the United States was always going to take time and money. In 2012, Amtrak estimated that updating rail lines and trains between Boston and Washington to speeds of 220 m.p.h., up from the Acela’s average speed of about 84 m.p.h., would cost $151 billion. Even getting the Acela to travel at 160 m.p.h. for longer stretches will require laying new track, building new tunnels and replacing signals.

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The Atlantic: Why can’t the United States build a high-speed rail system?

8/15/14

Virtually every wealthy nation in the world has invested in a high-speed rail network—with the striking exception of the United States. From Japan toFrance, even from Turkey to Russia, trains travel through the country at speeds of 150 miles per hour or above, linking city centers and providing a desirable alternative to both air and automobile travel. Meanwhile, outside Amtrak’s 28 miles of 150-m.p.h. track in rural Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the American rail network is largely limited to speeds of 110 m.p.h. or less. There are few reasons to think the situation will change much in the coming decades.

So why has the United States failed to fund and construct high-speed rail?

The problem is not political process. Most of the countries that have built high-speed rail are democratic, and have submitted the projects to citizen review; others, like Germany and Russia, have federated governments similar to ours that divide general decision-making between levels of authority. Nor is it geography. The British and French completed a 31-mile tunnelunder the British Channel 20 years ago, while many American cities are located in flat regions with few physical construction obstacles. Nor is it the characteristics of our urban areas. While U.S. cities are less dense than those of many other countries, the Northeast is denser, more transit reliant, and more populated than most areas served by high-speed rail abroad. Nor still is it money. Though the United States invests less in infrastructure than other developed countries do, America nevertheless remains an immensely wealthy nation perfectly capable of spending on new rail links if desired.

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NINE MAYORS TO SIGN AGREEMENT SUPPORTING CHICAGO-FORT WAYNE-COLUMBUS PASSENGER RAIL CORRIDOR

8/7/14

August 6, 2014 - Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and the mayors of eight other cities announced today that they will sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) within the week calling for cooperation in development of a Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail corridor.

The Indiana cities include Fort Wayne, Warsaw, Plymouth, Valparaiso and Gary. The Ohio cities represented are Columbus, Marysville, Kenton and Lima.

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RRStar: Rail car builder adding 90 workers in Rochelle

8/1/14

ROCHELLE — Nippon Sharyo USA this morning celebrated the completion of its rail car manufacturing plant in Rochelle and announced it will hire an additional 90 employees, bringing total employment to nearly 500.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was among the dignitaries attending to celebrate one of the most significant new operations to be built in the Rock River Valley in decades.

Nippon Sharyo is based in Aichi, Japan. Its U.S. subsidiary is based in Arlington Heights. Launched in 1896, the company makes trains and other transportation equipment such as railway freight cars, light rail vehicles, and subway trains. Its other two divisions make construction and industrial equipment and steel structures such as bridges.

In October 2010, the company announced it would build a 465,000-square-foot plant in Rochelle near Interstates 39 and 88 for a plant that would build 120 passenger rail cars a year.

Read more: http://www.rrstar.com/article/20140730/News/140739938#ixzz39A6m3LLb

WTHR: Indianapolis may pull out of Amtrak funding deal

7/21/14

INDIANAPOLIS -

Amtrak service from Indianapolis to Chicago is in jeopardy as Indianapolis moves to pull out of a funding deal to keep the Hoosier State Line going.

The mayor’s chief Ryan Vaughn told Eyewitness News the deal doesn’t make financial sense for the city. Vaughn said the city’s participation hinged on improvements for Union Station, which is in desperate need of repairs. But without Indy’s support, backers worry the Hoosier Line will be derailed.

Joe Seaman with the Greater Lafayette Commerce said, “It will be very difficult for the remaining communities to keep the trains running if Indianapolis does not participate.”

The Hoosier State runs from Indianapolis to Chicago four days a week. It leaves at 6 a.m. and returns at 11:50. It stops along the way in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer.

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The Hill: Highway fund running on fumes

7/9/14

Lawmakers are under pressure to refill the Highway Trust Fund when they return to Washington after the Fourth of July weekend or risk losing thousands of construction jobs that could set back recent job growth. 

The Department of Transportation has warned that allowing the Highway Trust Fund to go broke would cost the U.S. about 700,000 jobs — more than twice the 288,000 that were created last month, according to a jobs report celebrated by the administration. 

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