Federal stimulus money will be the financial engine driving about $2.6 billion of high-speed rail work in the Upper Midwest during 2010.
The federal government announced in late January that it would award $8 billion nationwide this year to projects that help grow high-speed railroad systems, and routes in Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa are on track to get a total of $2.62 billion—about 33%—of the overall pot.
The region’s key routes include Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City; Chicago-Detroit; Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison (and in the future Minneapolis-St. Paul); and Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati.
The Chicago-St. Louis line is getting $1.1 billion. St. Louis-Kansas City is getting $31 million. Chicago-Detroit will see $244 million. Chicago-Milwaukee will get $12 million. Milwaukee-Madison will receive $810 million, while a study of extending high-speed rail from Madison to Minneapolis-St. Paul will receive $1 million.
The Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati corridor will get $400 million. And Iowa will receive $17 million for improvements near Ottumwa.
Here’s a summary of the work expected to be done on each corridor this year.
Chicago-St. Louis: This year’s $1.1 billion of improvements for the line includes $200 million to buy new trains and $900 million to add sidings and upgrade tracks to 110-mph standards.
Improvements to tracks, signals and control systems will start in the fall, says George Weber, chief of the Illinois Dept. of Transportation’s Bureau of Railroads. This year’s work will focus on 75 mi of track running from Godfrey in southwestern Illinois, near St. Louis, to the edge of Springfield, Ill.
Because the tracks in Springfield were improved just a few years ago, the upcoming improvements will stop short of the city, Weber adds. If the construction season lasts long enough, crews may be able to improve some miles of track north of Springfield, too.
This fall will also see the start of $1.25 million in environmental studies needed before a second track is laid between Chicago and St. Louis. “Adding the second track will enable us to handle the higher volume of freight and passenger trains expected to use this route in coming years,” Weber says.
St. Louis-Kansas City: Three stimulus-funded, shovel-ready projects totaling $31 million are scheduled to start this summer on this stretch of track, says Rod Massman, administrator of railroads for the Missouri Dept. of Transportation.
One project will build a second rail bridge over the Osage River. The new bridge will eliminate the last bottleneck between St. Louis and Jefferson City, which sits about halfway from St. Louis to Kansas City.
The second project will build a crossover in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood, Mo. The new crossover will provide better access to the station and help with bypassing of the 50 to 60 freight trains and up to four Amtrak trains that pass through the station each day.
Massman says the third Missouri project is a package of improvements that will install new lights and gates at 13 grade crossings between Jefferson City and Kansas City.
Chicago-Detroit: The $244 million of work scheduled for this corridor in 2010 includes a $133-million triple-track bridge in Chicago that will eliminate rail-to-rail conflict by carrying 78 north-south Metra trains daily over four to five tracks that carry about 60 east-west freight and passenger trains through the same area.
ILDOT’s Weber says engineers are finishing the final design, and construction should start by year’s end.
In northwestern Indiana, $71.4 million of stimulus funds will upgrade 29.3 mi of track from the Illinois-Indiana state line to the city of Porter.
Indiana Dept. of Transportation spokesperson Will Wingfield says INDOT will add 5 mi of new sidings, upgrade the sections of rail, build passing tracks, add high-speed crossovers and improve signal systems on what has been called the country’s most congested and delay-prone rail corridor. No starting date has been set for the construction.
INDOT says the improvements will cut delay time by 61% and save 752 gallons of fuel each week.
Farther north and east along the Chicago-Detroit corridor, the Michigan DOT will use $41 million of federal stimulus money to renovate existing stations in Battle Creek and Troy, and to build a new station next to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.
Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago: Wisconsin’s Dept. of Transportation will spend $810 million of stimulus funds to build track, passenger stations, signal systems and other infrastructure along 80 mi between Madison and Milwaukee. No passenger trains now run between the cities.
Construction is scheduled to start by the end of 2010, with 110-mph passenger trains expected to start rolling in 2013.
WisDOT will also spend $12 million of stimulus money to install crossovers, upgrade signaling and improve a station platform on the existing tracks connecting Milwaukee with Chicago.
Minnesota’s DOT will use $1 million of stimulus funds to study possible routes between Wisconsin and Minneapolis-St. Paul so the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison high-speed line can be extended to serve Minnesota’s largest metropolitan area.
Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati: The Ohio Dept. of Transportation will use $400 million of stimulus funds to plan, upgrade tracks, improve grade crossings and build new stations and maintenance facilities for a new 250-mi corridor connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati.
This “3C Corridor” is the first step in Ohio’s plan to eventually connect many cities throughout the Buckeye State with high-speed rail service.