Friday, November 16, 2012

Chicago-St. Louis HSR gets environmental approval from feds and state

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have signed and issued the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the full build-out of the Chicago-St. Louis high-speed rail corridor.

The EIS advances the identification of preferred alternatives, including the Rock Island Corridor (RIC) as the recommended route between Joliet and Chicago and a Tier 2 project-level evaluation for the Springfield Rail Improvement Project, which recommended a consolidated train route along 10th Street through Springfield. A potential Record of Decision could be issued at the end of December.

"This historic achievement advances the crucial Chicago-St. Louis high-speed rail project, while signifying that all environmental impacts and route alternatives have been analyzed to determine the best option," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said. "Today's issuance of the EIS demonstrates Illinois' steadfast diligence and partnership with the federal government, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), communities along the route, private rail partners and other key supporters to move this project forward as quickly as possible."

The Tier 1 EIS includes the RIC as IDOT's preferred Chicago-Joliet route, instead of the existing route, the Heritage Corridor. The $1 billion estimated cost for upgrading the RIC is $500 million less than for the Heritage, mainly because fewer grade separations would be needed. The EIS also represents significant progress on the next stage of high-speed rail after upgrades to the Dwight-Alton portion of the corridor (expected as early as 2015) and the Dwight-Joliet section (anticipated to be complete in 2017) are finished.

The Tier 1 EIS focuses on double-tracking the entire line, while the Tier 2 EIS pinpoints two alternatives along the existing 10th Street rail corridor as finalists to carry the high-speed trains through Springfield.

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