Monday, February 01, 2010

Rail plan tops city leaders' priorities for Washington trip

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Rail plan tops city leaders' priorities for Washington trip | Railway Track & Structures

Supporters of consolidating Springfield, Ill., rail traffic on the 10th Street corridor plan to take a wish list of overpass construction, track relocation and other design improvements on an annual trip to Washington D.C. next month, The State Journal-Register reports. The list will exceed the $26.5 million sought for the same project last year, Gary Plummer, president and CEO of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, said Friday.

In fact, Plummer said this week's announcement of $1.2 billion in federal money for high-speed rail construction in Illinois might have bought a little more time for supporters of 10th Street consolidation.

"The construction dollars are all going into the line between Dwight and Chicago is my understanding. Although there will be some upgrades to the Union Pacific line down here, there won't be any double-tracking down here," Plummer said before the chamber's annual banquet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The chamber, city and county have been fighting for months to convince the railroad, state and federal officials that increased passenger and freight traffic on the Third Street line essentially would cut Springfield in two. As part of an agreement announced last month, the Illinois Department of Transportation agreed not to spend state money on the Third Street line until a local study of 10th Street's suitability is completed.

Norfolk Southern operates the 10th Street line, while the Union Pacific and Amtrak use the Third Street line. Transportation officials estimate it would cost $3.2 billion to add a second line along the Third Street corridor.

This year's journey to D.C. is scheduled for Feb. 28-March 3.

"One of the things we've learned is there are other pots of money out there. There's money set aside for high-speed rail, and there's money for railroad consolidation, and that's a totally separate fund," said Mayor Tim Davlin.

Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter said supporters also are seeking a meeting with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, on the long-term implications of the federal money released this week.

"Until we get a chance to meet Sen. Durbin, and really get his take, it's hard to tell how this project is going to unfold," said Van Meter.

When local officials traveled to Washington last year, requests included a package that outlined the benefits of consolidating Third, 10th and 19th street rail traffic on the 10th Street corridor.

But Plummer noted Friday that the proposal was at the back of the 2009 package, a spot he said will change when the 2010 document is taken to Washington.

"It'll be on Page 1 this year," said Plummer.

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