IDOT pitches high-speed rail plan
By Nick Swedberg Correspondent February 27, 2014 8:58PM
Ursula Berryhill, 46, of Calumet City (left) and Bill McKenzie, 62, of Chicago, discuss details about a proposed high speed rail project that would run from Chicago to Joliet. | Nick Swedberg~For Sun-Times Media.
Updated: February 28, 2014 2:13AM
A hearing in Orland Park on Thursday gave the public a look at a plan to use Metra’s Rock Island Line as the northernmost segment of a high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis.
Several Southland towns and Chicago neighborhoods could have as many as 16 more Amtrak trains a day using the 40-mile leg between Chicago and Joliet, according to the proposal.
Existing Amtrak service between the cities offers four trips a day each way on Canadian National Railway tracks and Metra’s Heritage Corridor Line, which has many fewer commuter trains each day.
Under the plan, Amtrak trains would pass through 35 grade crossings rather than the current 20 and at much higher speeds. In light of that, the plan calls for gate and signal improvements at grade crossings and building overpasses or underpasses to replace some of those crossings.
Thursday’s hearing was the latest in a series by Illinois Department of Transportation officials and their consultants as they seek public comment on the estimated $1.5 billion plan for the Chicago-to-Joliet portion of the 281-mile line from Chicago to St. Louis.
IDOT officials said high-speed rail, with trains that would run up to 110 mph in some sections, will reduce travel times, improve service reliability and provide more trips.
Ursula Berryhill, a Calumet City resident who has worked in transportation, was impressed with the project and believes that the Chicago area will benefit from having high-speed rail.
Three public hearings were held this week in the Chicago area as part of an environmental impact study on the proposed changes.
IDOT officials see the high-speed rail line as a necessary alternative to air and vehicle travel. Now, only 1 percent of trips annually between Chicago and St. Louis are on passenger rail, according to IDOT.
“Taking a train is a lot more pleasant,” said Glen Osness, a Downers Grove resident who previously had worked with Metra.
Another round of public hearings will be scheduled for later this year. A draft of the environmental impact study is scheduled to be ready by year’s end.
The public also is encouraged to comment by visiting the project website, www.idothsr.org, or by calling (855) 436-8477.