Illinois begins second phase of construction on high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis
By Chrissy Mancini Nichols
Apr 5, 2011
This post first appeared at metroplanning.org
While some states have turned away federal funding to support the construction of high-speed rail, today Illinois began work on faster train service from Chicago to St. Louis. Today, the $685 million second construction phase will begin, including upgrades to approximately 96 miles of existing track from Elkhart to Dwight, installation of over 250,00 new concrete ties, and renewal of approximately 90 crossing surfaces and approaches. The $685 million is part of the $1.2 billion Illinois was awarded from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to improve the current Chicago-to-St. Louis rail corridor.
This construction will enhance the on-time performance of this route and put the Chicago region on track realizing billions in economic gains. Projections show that over the next 10 years, about 800,000 new tourists will visit Chicago because of the $1.2 billion federal investment. The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) studied the economic benefits resulting from these new tourists over the first 10 years of rail operation and found that the result of increased tourism alone would provide:
· $320 million in direct new tourist spending;
· $510 million in total direct and indirect spending as a result;
· $120 million in new state and local tax revenue;
· $2.6 billion of additional income from job creation; and
· 5,300 jobs as a result of tourist spending and building of the Englewood flyover bridge near 63rdStreet.
Chicagoland stands to gain even more if we can secure additional funds, for instance some or all of the $2.4 billion in high-speed rail funding recently rejected by Florida, or a portion of President Obama’s proposed $53 billion in funding for transportation infrastructure over the next six years. These dollars could support additional service upgrades as well as the construction of the West Loop Transportation Center (WLTC). Because Chicago’s Union Station cannot accommodate additional trains and passengers, this new multi-modal transportation hub would increase our city’s capacity allowing inter-city rail and Metra service to grow to meet regional travel demand forecasts. This terminal also could be a vibrant civic asset that sparks new development in the West Loop and connects inter-city high-speed rail with Chicago Transit Authority bus and train routes, Metra rail, and Amtrak commuter lines. Cities across the country, including Denver, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, have shown train terminals can be focal points for commercial redevelopment and can promote new development in the surrounding area. The Chicago Dept. of Transportation (CDOT) is currently analyzing the ability of Union Station, or other sites, to effectively perform the role of a major multi-modal transportation center. MPC is leading the Civic Advisory Committee to review and provide comments on the CDOT plan as it develops.