Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) officials held the first of a series of public meetings on Monday, Feb. 24, introducing the public to the next step of the Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail project and asking for feedback as it begins Tier 2 environmental studies.
The Tier 2 environmental studies will look at options to bring 110 mph Amtrak service on the Joliet to Chicago portion of the corridor in the north and Alton to St. Louis corridor in the south. Speeds of 110 mph have been reached on the corridor between Dwight and Pontiac and improvements are underway between Dwight and Alton, Ill., to extend that service speed.
Two route options that will be studied for the Joliet to Chicago corridor are a no build option, which would utilize existing Canadian National infrastructure along Metra’s Heritage Corridor route and a build alternative along Metra’s Rock Island District Corridor. Officials gave the ballpark cost of building out the Rock Island District corridor as $1.5 billion but stressed a more accurate figure would be known once the Tier 2 study was complete.
IDOT officials said the purpose of this study is to “enhance the passenger transportation network in the Chicago to St. Louis HSR Corridor by improving high-speed passenger rail service to provide greater balance among different corridor travel options. Enhancements to passenger rail service would include reduced travel times, improved service reliability, increased frequency of trips and increased capacity.”
IDOT will hold public meetings through the end of the week of Feb. 24 and the public is asked to comment on the project by the end of March. IDOT plans to have the Tier 2 environmental studies complete by mid 2014 with a Draft Environmental Impact Statement ready by the end of the year.