Illinois General Assembly Passes “Capital Bill”

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by NSC1109, Jun 3, 2019.

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  1. Jun 3, 2019 #1

    NSC1109

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    NSC1109

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    From the MWHSRA email:

    Capital Bill Passes, passenger rail gains
    The Illinois General Assembly has passed the "Capital Bill".

    We will have more analysis in our regular newsletter this week, but there are a few items that we can celebrate right away. The bill funds:

    New service to Rockford
    New service to Moline
    Track improvements for Chicago - Champaign - Carbondale
    Track improvements in Springfield, IL
    Expanded Metra service into Kendall County
    A big next step for CREATE

    The Midwest High Speed Rail Association would like to thank all the legislators who supported improved passenger rail in Illinois.

    And thanks to all of our members who communicated with their legislators through the course of the Spring session.
     
  2. Jun 3, 2019 #2

    dogbert617

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    This sounds good and all, but I was wondering if there's any timelime when Metra services in Kendall County will actually begin service? And I seem to remember reading Kendall County will have to join the RTA, for Metra expanding their service to Kendall to even happen. I guess I wonder if it'll be like the UP-West line to Elburn where all trains start and terminate service there, or if just select trains will go beyond Aurora into Kendall County? A la how it is with Milwaukee West (Elgin, where only on weekdays trains start/end at Big Timber Road, and not all trains do that), due to the fact the yard is near downtown Elgin and not by Big Timber. I guess I wonder if the plans for Metra service in Kendall County, include constructing a Metro yard somewhere in Kendall?

    The rumors of new Amtrak regional service to Dubuque (now only Rockford, because of CN opposition to the rest of that possible service) and Moline(thought that train BTW was originally supposed to go as far west as Davenport or Bettendorf), I remember hearing as far back as when Quinn was governor. And I remember both projects got sidelined, while Rauner was governor. Is there any timeline, on when either new Amtrak regional train would begin service?
     
  3. Jun 3, 2019 #3

    brianpmcdonnell17

    brianpmcdonnell17

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    As to the service patterns if Metra was extended to Kendall County, I doubt all or even most trains that currently terminate in Aurora would be extended. It would be extremely expensive to extend the current Aurora station and yard tracks to reconnect with the mainline due to their differing heights. My guess is that they would build a new platform on the mainline, although if it is only a few trains per day they could bypass Aurora entirely, as is done in Crystal Lake with the McHenry trains.
     
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  4. Jun 3, 2019 #4

    dogbert617

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    Gotcha, thanks for responding. My gut feeling is that it'll be like McHenry and Big Timber Road west of downtown Elgin, where not all trains start/end at those 2 stations.

    And like you said unless a new Metra station was constricted on the mainline through Aurora for this Kendall extension, I bet they'll only have a few scheduled trains past Aurora. And like you said, such trains will probably skip the downtown Aurora stop. Not to forget, a yard would have to be constructed in say like Yorkville besides a new Metro Aurora station on the mainline, for all trains (even weekend ones) to start/end past downtown Aurora.
     
  5. Jun 4, 2019 #5

    neroden

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    Yes, Governor Ruiner sabotaged the Moline project. It's going to get done now. All the EISes are finished, and it is well into final engineering. Mostly it's just one curve connecting BNSF to Iowa Interstate which requires a lot of engineering; the rest is very conventional track upgrades. Negotiations with Iowa Interstate continue, but Iowa Interstate is frankly eager for the service. It was delayed entirely by Ruiner.

    The Quad Cities are huge, so this is a big deal.

    Rockford/Dubuque service is not nearly as advanced. No EISes. Might not happen.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
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  6. Jun 4, 2019 #6

    dogbert617

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    By EISes, what did you mean by that? And will this Quad Cities Amtrak train only go to Moline, or also cross the river into somewhere in Iowa like Davenport or Bettendorf? I have the weird feeling such a train won't quite hit say like Iowa City, though I wish it would go that far west. I hope it doesn't only start/end in Moline, but not sure what the current plan is for this train when it's brought back into service in the future.
     
  7. Jun 4, 2019 #7

    brianpmcdonnell17

    brianpmcdonnell17

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    An EIS is an Environmental Impact Statement. The current plan is to terminate in Moline with the only other stations being the existing stops from Princeton east and potentially a new stop in Geneseo.
     
  8. Jun 4, 2019 #8

    neroden

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    The original plan was to go into Iowa but a Republican Iowa legislature decided to eliminate funding, so it stops on the Illinois side of the border, in Moilne. (Not sure why Moilne rather than Rock Island!)

    The stop in Geneseo is confirmed as part of the plan but no design yet. Moline's station is practically built and waiting for the funding to put the platform in.
     
  9. Jun 4, 2019 #9

    MisterUptempo

    MisterUptempo

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    Iowa governor Branstad gave back $53 million in federal money to extend the corridor to Iowa City (with a vision of eventually running to Des Moines and Omaha) because he and the legislature wouldn't come up with the $20 million in matching funds. This was about the same time that Walker sent funds back for Milwaukee-Madison and Kasich sent back the money intended for 3-C.

    Rauner barely kept the idea of Quad Cities service alive so Illinois didn't have to give back its federal dollars. Rockford was always intended to be funded fully by the state, and once Quinn lost, it was as good as dead.

    One item Rauner starved for funds, and I hear no news of whether the General Assembly allotted any money for, is the Tier II EIS for Chicago to Joliet on the Lincoln Service.

    But this whole package brings up some intriguing possibilities.

    In March, Landmark Development announced plans to build a series of high-rises over the Metra Electric tracks, called One Central, from Roosevelt Rd. to McCormick Place. The centerpiece of the plan is a $3.8 billion transit center, located at the Metra Electric 18th Street station, and its supporting infrastructure. Landmark envisioned using the St. Charles Air Line to send some Metra BNSF trains to the transit center, as well as extending the CTA Orange Line there, and utilizing the McCormick Place Busway for part of a downtown circulator known as The Chi Line.

    I didn't give the project much thought, as it looked like just another exercise that would amount to nothing. Building over the Metra Electric in the same location was proposed by Forest City in the mid-2000s. But the new funding bill authorizes the state to work with the developer to secure federal grants. If those grants are secured, the state would enter into a public-private partnership on the transit center. Landmark, with federal assistance, would front the $3.8 billion to build the transit center. The state would use sales taxes generated from the project to pay Landmark back. After 20 years, the state would own the transit center outright.

    I would hope that this might pass, as it might actually get help from other parties that would benefit from the investment.

    To me, re-directing only some BNSF trains makes no sense. Better to invest in the 16th Street Connector, to connect the Union Station South tracks to the Air Line. In addition to benefiting One Central, it would provide a link to McCormick Place.

    Another megadevelopment that recently received city approval and a sizable amount of TIF money is Related Midwest's The 78. The property is bounded by Roosevelt Rd. to the north, 16th Street to the south, Clark Street to the east and the south branch of the Chicago River to the west. The 16th Street Connector would run along the southern edge of the property and a station along the Connector would provide potential residents and employees easy access to the site. Part of the TIF is already slated to be used to build a new station on the CTA Red Line at 15th Street.

    Yet another megadevelopment, The Burnham Lakefront (formally Michael Reese Hospital), lies immediately south of McCormick Place. The property is bounded by 25th Street/Stevenson Expressway to the north, 31st Street to the south, MLKing Drive to the west and Lake Shore Drive to the east. A connection from Union Station would provide the same advantages that One Central and McCormick Place would enjoy. Plus, the new funding bill finally authorizes a massive casino within the city (4000 gaming seats). The prime candidate to land the casino is Burnham Lakefront.

    Constructing the 16th Street Connector could also advance the cause of building an O'Hare Express, which would require cleaning up A-2, A-5, and building a series of grade separated crossings. It would provide a one seat ride from O'Hare to Union Station to McCormick Place, something the city has wanted for a long time. It certainly appears as if Mr. Musk's idea of high-speed butter dishes rolling in tunnels between Block 37 and O'Hare is fading fast.

    For Amtrak, the 16th Street Connector would mean no more back-up maneuvers to get onto the Metra Electric/IC tracks. One of the possible routes for the South of the Lake project included the Connector. Plus, if configured correctly, the Connector could finally put Lincoln Service trains onto the Metra Rock Island District tracks to Joliet.

    Connecting just the Orange Line to One Central also makes no sense. While probably more expensive and complicated, it would make more sense to try and build a connection that would allow CTA routes that currently terminate in the Loop (like the Purple and Brown Lines) to continue onto the Air Line to points along the South Lakefront.
     
  10. Jun 4, 2019 #10

    DSS&A

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    Hi,
    One of the listed Create projects is to rebuild the Nickle Plate connection between the former PRR and the IC at the 75th Grand Crosing location. Trains heading onto the CN (former IC) would use this new connection which would eliminate their use of the St. Charles Air Line and their backup move into or out of Union Station.
     
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  11. Jun 4, 2019 #11

    MisterUptempo

    MisterUptempo

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    I believe you are combining two different CREATE projects here.

    The Rebuild Illinois capital bill allocates $350 million towards the completion of the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project. The project consists of a grade separation of the CSX over 71st Street, a flyover of the CSX at Forest Hill Junction, rebuilding Belt and 80th Street junctions, a connection between the Metra Southwest Service and Metra Rock Island District, so Southwest Service trains terminate at LaSalle Street Station, and a second Southwest Service track from Wrightwood station to Western Ave.

    The Grand Crossing project, which would re-connect NS (former Pennsy) and Metra Electric (former IC) lines is a separate project altogether, and I didn't see any money set aside for that purpose.
     
  12. Jun 5, 2019 #12

    DSS&A

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    Yes, the Grand Crossing project is completely separate from the 75th SIP project. Both just happen to be near 75th Street, but at different locations in the city.

    The Grand Crossing project will not connect to the Metra Electric tracks. They will only connect the the CN tracks. The Grand Crossing project would reduce running time for Amtrak trains running south to Carbondale, IL and New Orleans. The route cound also be used by a rerouted Cardinal. At Matteson, there is a connection between the CN, former IC and former EJ&E and if a new connection is made in Dyer between the former EJ&E and the CSX, the Cardinal would also save running time to Union Station. The Dyer station would have to be relocated south of the new connection.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  13. Jun 5, 2019 #13

    NSC1109

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    The Grand Crossing project is still in Phase 1, as far as I know. It would drastically help the OTP for the Illini, Saluki, and CONO. However, something else that needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that Amtrak is starting to consider the possibility of purchasing and constructing their own ROW between Porter and Chicago (arguably the most congested section of the Chicago Line). What's the point of connecting the CN to NS if Amtrak is going to build their own ROW straight into CUS?*

    *The Porter-Chicago ROW project doesn't have any funding listed in the 2020 request but given the immense issues regarding OTP in that section (especially around the Calumet River Drawbridge), it would be foolish for Amtrak not to at least investigate the possibility.

    75th Street has several sub-projects that are in varying stages of progress. You can see the updates for both projects here:

    http://www.75thcip.org/existing_situation.html

    http://www.grandcrossingrail.com/
     
  14. Jun 5, 2019 #14

    MisterUptempo

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    The South of the Lake project that I mentioned a few posts up IS the Chicago to Porter route to which you are referring. It has been primarily guided by MDOT. And, as I mentioned earlier as well, one of the possible routes they are considering for South of the Lake would involve a connector at 16th Street, which would be a direct connection from the Air Line onto Union Station's tracks through Amtrak's yards, eliminating any back-up move. Connecting the CN to the NS is also just one of the potential routings those in charge of South of the Lake are considering.

    The point I was attempting to make is that building the 16th Street Connector would have beneficial effects for more than just Amtrak. It would also help The 78, One Central, McCormick Place, and Burnham Lakefront, and more. As such, all the parties might kick in and financially assist in, as well as possibly expediting, its construction. You wouldn't get any of that by selecting a South of the Lake routing that utilizes Grand Crossing.
     
  15. Jun 6, 2019 #15

    PaulM

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    From the Midwest High Speed Rail Association

    "Illinois has also committed $100 million for track upgrades to the CN-owned railroad that hosts trains between Chicago and Carbondale. This should address slow speeds and frequent delays on this line, which serves the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale."

    I can't help but wonder if this will be another scam like Joiliet to Alton where the gullable state pays and freights get all the benefit.
     
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  16. Jun 6, 2019 #16

    bretton88

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    This probably will address the axle count issue that plagues that route.
     
  17. Jun 9, 2019 #17

    Metra Electric Rider

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    This bill was a long time coming and it was high time it passed. I'm not convinced about the south loop BS mega development - the transit center is a scam by the developer to get public funding for his project as was just witnessed by the dressing down he just got from Lightfoot for trying to sneak funding for the development into the bill. I don't see the Michael Reese development happening anytime soon (though moving the forlorn 27th Street Station to 31st which would enable bus connections and pick up Lake Meadows residents in addition to Prairie Shores residents and would be a huge improvement - it would also allow IIT to run a shuttle to pick up staff and a few students from MED) either. This may surprise some of you but the south side between Woodlawn and the South Loop east of the Dan Ryan is developing pretty darn well without mega developments and huge public subsidies at the moment.

    The Quad Cities route may be up and running just as the new cars start to arrive which would really make it a hit. Knock wood anyways.
     
  18. Jun 10, 2019 #18

    John Bredin

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    Does anyone know what the present plan for Rockford service is regarding number of round-trips? I'm pretty sure the Quad Cities plan (which was, IIRC, much farther along than Rockford when work stopped) is two round-trips daily.
     
  19. Jun 10, 2019 #19

    MikefromCrete

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    There is no need for the lakefront transit center. It's just a scheme by the developer to get government money for his project. Until the developer proposed the transit center, it was never thought of by any transit agency or planning group.
     
  20. Jun 11, 2019 #20

    Steve4031

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    Mayor Lightfoot was not happy about the way the developers tried to sneak this transit center through without including stakeholders in Chicago. She did say if proper procedures were used she would be ok with it. She cited the red line extension as a bigger priority.
     
  21. Jun 11, 2019 #21

    Deni

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    No, the Rockford train was set to begin before the Quad Cities train. There is a connecting track that needs to be constructed for QC. The Rockford plan calls for one daily round trip initially then increased later.
     
  22. Jun 11, 2019 #22

    Eric S

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    TRAINS has an update on their Newswire today. The gist is that there is no service plan yet for the Rockford service (subject to negotiations between relevant parties) and that there is still a lot of preliminary work to do before actual construction can begin on the Moline/Quad Cities service.
     
  23. Jun 14, 2019 #23

    neroden

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    Not that much preliminary work. They have to finish making a deal with Iowa Interstate and finish final engineering that one connection between IAIS and BNSF... IIRC the BNSF junction is approved from a signalling perspective but the exact geometry and engineering and land acquisition is not done. Who knows how long these two minor items will take though. The engineering for the rest of IAIS is apparently cut and dried.
     
  24. Jun 22, 2019 #24

    Metra Electric Rider

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    So apparently the "transit center" at central station has gotten more money than asked for from the state. This looks like its' going to be a huge boondoggle. But we shall see.

    Also, I've always been under the impression that other than a few items that needed funding Quad Cities was ready to go (as in shovel ready) while Rockford Service needed agreements and an actual service plan in place. I do know people who are very excited to be able to get closer to south central Wisconsin by train and for Galena it will be great (Galena was President General Grants retirement home and a tourist destination in hilly NW Illinois) which would be an eventual continuation of the service.
     
  25. Jun 22, 2019 #25

    bretton88

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    Unfortunately service to Galena will have to wait until CN eventually decides to cooperate. Right now it's "No and no questions asked."
     

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