Wall Street Journal Article on the Chicago-St. Louis Higher Speed Rail Project

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Wall Street Journal Article on the Chicago-St. Louis Higher Speed Rail Project
Posted by Carl Fowler on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 1:26 PM

The WSJ has a genuinely interesting article on the Chicago-St. Louis Amtrak/Illinois "Higher Speed" upgrade of the UP (ex-GM&O). While the headlines are somewhat tainted by the WSJ editorial board's hostility to Amtrak the article is overall worth a read.

It can be accessed at

https://www.wsj.com/articles/high-speed-rail-in-the-u-s-remains-elusive-illinois-shows-why-11551713342?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=2&fbclid=IwAR1Jh8TgGfWHx_Emc3-SiENeI02zNZLtQZLotspCi75PBO05WEswUC6HJwg

If you can't open this visit Facebook for the WSJ and the article opened fine there, at least yesterday. I also have it posted at my own Facebook page for "Carl Fowler" and on multiple discussion groups devoted to Amtrak.

This is my response and critique of it:

Overall this is a good article, but it puts too dark a spin on what Amtrak and Illinois have accomplished. For decades opponents of rail have argued that spending should be focused on 300-400 mile corridors, between major cities and also serving significant regional centers. That is precisely what was done here. And 110 mph is a very significant increase from 80 mph--40% faster.
 
As the article correctly notes, this was a very complex project. Hundreds of grade crossings needed to be upgraded. New stations were built. In a major city tracks moved to an entirely new alignment. The complex Positive train Control (PTC) system had to be installed over the entire line.
 
Yet at the very beginning of the project Illinois added additional trains to the line which triggered a great increase in patronage even before speeds could be raised. The 40-50% improvement in ridership compared to the 1990s to date is only the preview to what will come when 110 mph becomes the norm on the entire core of the route. And the focus on Chicago to St. Louis end to end times/riders belies the fact that as on every Amtrak route the great majority of riders will traverse only parts of the line. Here the real benifit of 110 mph will be proven. Ridership has been flat of late because of multiple route closures for construction.
 
Finally, room still remains for further upgrades without building a completely new railroad. This line was once entirely double-track. While Amtrak/Illinois only had the funds to add 24 miles of passing/second tracks, the right of way is fully intact to double track almost the entire corridor. This would permit much greater flexibility for both Union Pacific freight trains and Amtrak passenger express services and could permit an hourly service over the line.
 
In a dream world a new line would have been ideal, but the agonies imposed on both the 110-125 mph Florida Brightline project and especially to the California and Texas full 200 mph plans shows how terribly difficult it is to get that sort of thing done. The perfect is the enemy of the possible. This is a good project that will dramatically revolutionize the place of rail travel in the midwest and lay the ground-work for true high speed service hopefully in our lifetimes.
 
Carl H. Fowler
Vice Chair, Rail Passengers Association (NARP)
Views expressed are my own
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Posted by runnerdude48 on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 2:18 PM
Well said Carl. It is past time for the US to stop spending money on illogical dreams of true high speed rail like the California fiasco and also get rid of the long distance trains that carry an infinitesimal number of passengers and start looking at increasing the number of short/medium distance higher speed trains serving a true rail market between major metropolitan areas. I look forward to riding these trains. The last time I tried to ride this line I had to abandon my attempt and fly to get my connection in Chicago when the Texas Eagle was running 6 hours late.
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Posted by 7j43k on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 2:30 PM

Carl Fowler

Here the real benifit of 110 mph will be proven.

 

 
What is the expected real benefit that will be proven?
 
 
Ed
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Posted by Carl Fowler on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 2:48 PM

The benefit will be ncreased ridership--particularly to/from intermediate points.

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Posted by timz on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 3:05 PM

Carl Fowler
110 mph is a very significant increase from 80 mph--40% faster.

So 110 mph looks good in the headlines, but odds are the Chicago to St Louis schedule will improve by less than 10%.

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Posted by Falcon48 on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 3:10 PM

Unfortunately, I couldn't access the WSJ article at the address given.  I wish I could, because Carl's description looks interesting.  It could be because I'm not a WSJ subscriber or because I'm very close to being a computer illiterate (I used to think that a "Blackberry" was some kind of dessert and that an "Apple" was something that grew on trees).  

That said, I'm at least very familiar with the Chicago-St. Louis route.  It's a really good "intermediate point" example because it provides a good link between Chicago (the state's largest city) and Springfield (the state capital).  It also connects Chicago to Bloomington-Normal, which has a large college population  

 

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Posted by 7j43k on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 5:04 PM

Carl Fowler

The benefit will be ncreased ridership--particularly to/from intermediate points.

 

Ah. 

If we assume the distance of travel for the intermediate points averages to half-way, and that an hour is saved for the full run, then the saving for those runs would be a half hour.

Do you really think the saving of a half hour is going to significantly increase ridership?  

"I wouldn't take the train before, but now that the trip is half an hour faster, I'm in."

It will be interesting to monitor the ridership increase.  Is there a way to obtain ridership figures on the route for the present day?  Including intermediate stops.  The numbers certainly exist.  I would be interested on tracking the ridership increase as it happens.

 

Ed

 

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Posted by JPS1 on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 6:21 PM

7j43k
 It will be interesting to monitor the ridership increase.  Is there a way to obtain ridership figures on the route for the present day?  

In FY18 Amtrak carried 586,200 riders between at least two points on the Chicago and St. Louis route.  In FY17 it was 590,000.  In FY13 it was 655,465.
 
FY18 ridership declined 64/100s of one percent between FY17 and FY18; it declined by 10.6 percent between FY13 and FY18.   
 
In FY18 Amtrak realized an operating profit of $1.7 million for the Chicago to St. Louis service; in FY17 it was 4.7 million. 
 
In FY18 the average load factor was 46 percent; in FY17 it was 45 percent.  In FY18 the Chicago to St. Louis trains realized an average on time performance record at their end points of 68 percent; in FY17 it was 67.9 percent.
 
I don’t know whether these numbers include the Texas Eagle.  In any case, they probably would not sway significantly the overall results. 
 
In FY17 177,241 passengers entrained or detrained at Springfield. At Bloomington/Normal the number was 242,844.  In FY16 the numbers were 164,484 and 226,212.  The Springfield numbers increased 7.6 percent from FY16 to FY17; the Bloomington/Normal numbers increased 7.4 percent.
 
I have not looked at every station’s activity.  Moreover, the station numbers for FY 18 have not been published on Amtrak’s website.
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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 7:27 PM
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Posted by 7j43k on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 7:48 PM

Thank you, JPS1.

I can envision the annual operating profit increasing to $10 million a year, with increased ridership and a raise in fares.  If the project costs $2 billion, then the expense will be paid down in 200 years.  This, of course, is VERY approximate.

With current ridership at about 600,000, daily is about 2000.  I think there are six trains a day.  So about 300 per train.  That's pretty good looking.

My quick reading on the subject shows that there is no projected time for the trains running at 110 mph.  When the PTS starts working, speeds can go up from 79 mph to 90 mph.  So the claimed elapsed time for the trip is kind of marginally increased, certainly not enough to gain ridership.

I also understand that new equipment has been ordered.  If more trains were to run, that could lead to more profit, but you also have to get people ON to the train.

It does look like a big experiment, so it should be watched and analyzed carefully to see if it's successful.  And part of that success should be justifying the expense.  

 

Ed

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Posted by Carl Fowler on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 9:39 PM

Taking a full hour out of a five and a half hour run is much more than 10%. More comes later after the reroute Joliet to Chicago. 

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Posted by Falcon48 on Tuesday, March 05, 2019 11:12 PM

Unfortunately, you have to subscribe to WSJ to access the article.

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Posted by Carl Fowler on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 8:39 AM

If you can't open this visit Facebook for the WSJ and the article opened fine there, at least yesterday. I also have it posted at my own Facebook page for "Carl Fowler" and on multiple discussion groups devoted to Amtrak.

The piece is worth the effort to read. It's very complete and much of it very fair and interesting.

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Posted by Carl Fowler on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 8:40 AM

 Here is a link to the article on my Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/carl.fowler.7355

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 10:48 AM

Carl Fowler
 Here is a link to the article on my Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/carl.fowler.7355

The Facebook link gets one a nice animated gif and three lines of story and the sign in line to the WSJ.

Members of the WSJ would not see this as they alread have 'membership'.

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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 10:49 AM

Carl Fowler

 Here is a link to the article on my Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/carl.fowler.7355

 

 

 

"This page isn't available"

 

Ed

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Posted by Carl Fowler on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 12:52 PM

Alas! The piece is so full of graphics that I can’t copy/paste it either. 

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Posted by timz on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 12:54 PM

Carl Fowler
Taking a full hour out of a five and a half hour run is much more than 10%.

Indeed it is, which is why it's not going to happen.

Figure it out for yourself -- a mile at 110 mph takes 12.27 seconds less than a mile at 80 mph. How many miles do you have to run at 110 mph to save an hour?

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Posted by Carl Fowler on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 1:31 PM

Here's a stab at cut/paste of the text at least--the graphics won't transfer--but this is I hope all the text:

Amtrak’s route from Chicago to St. Louis would seem an ideal place for the U.S. to adopt high-speed rail such as in Europe and Asia, where passenger trains can race along at 200 miles an hour. The stretch in Illinois is a straight shot across mostly flat terrain. In fact, a fast-rail project is under way in Illinois. Yet the trains will top out at 110 mph, shaving just an hour from what is now a 5½-hour train trip.

After it’s finished, at a cost of about $2 billion, the state figures the share of people who travel between the two cities by rail could rise just a few percentage points. Behind such modest gains, for hundreds of millions of dollars spent, lie some of the reasons high-speed train travel remains an elusive goal in the U.S. The challenges faced by Illinois, among them limited federal funding and people’s ingrained travel habits, mirror those faced by other states that would like to upgrade the passenger rail network.

The issue is drawing renewed attention as part of congressional Democrats’ “Green New Deal” to overhaul the country’s energy and transportation infrastructure. Some local governments are looking at ways to commit to reducing their carbon footprint, or to better serve an aging and urbanizing population. Yet just last month, California’s governor sharply scaled back a costly high-speed-rail project the state has been working on for years, shelving plans to provide fast passenger trains between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Illinois didn’t have the money, or the right-of-way, to lay tracks that would be exclusively for a high-speed service. So its fast passenger trains will have to share the track with lumbering freight trains. “To build the kind of infrastructure that is stand-alone—that is, just for high-speed passenger rail—it is just absurdly expensive and just takes years and years and years to get through the permitting and environmental process,” said Randy Blankenhorn, who was Illinois’s transportation secretary until this year.

“Land acquisition alone [would] take half a decade,” he said. “If we were to have said from the beginning, right off the bat go to 200-mile-an-hour service, we’d still be in the implementing and design phase.” Illinois settled for weaving improvements along the route and rebuilding an existing single-track line that is owned by freight railroads. In effect, it chose higher-speed rail rather than actual high-speed.

The targeted 110 mph speed is well above the top of 79 mph on Amtrak’s current Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service, yet far slower than the fastest trains abroad or even than Amtrak trains between Washington and Boston, which can reach 150 mph. In a first phase, passenger trains south of Springfield, Ill., should reach 90 mph this spring or early summer, the Illinois Department of Transportation said. It hopes the top speed of 110 mph can be achieved not long after.

California has been taking the opposite approach from Illinois’s—building a passenger rail service with dedicated track. But the price tag for its long-running project rose to an estimated $77 billion. Gov. Gavin Newsom said in mid-February the ambitious plan would cost too much and take too long, adding: “There simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to LA.” Mr. Newsom said work would continue on a shorter stretch of high-speed rail over dedicated track between Merced and Bakersfield. New doubts arose a week later, however, when the Trump administration said that it intended to cancel more than $900 million of planned future funding for the California rail project, and that it was exploring legal options to recover $2.5 billion of federal money already spent on it. Mr. Newsom said California would fight to keep the funds. 

Amtrak’s strategic planning doesn’t focus on service over dedicated track, as in California, but on boosting some of its existing service over track that is shared with freights. An overhaul that Amtrak is preparing concentrates on increasing the frequency of intercity service, such as between Chicago and St. Louis, on the notion that rail has a better chance of competing with cars and planes in growing commercial corridors than on long-haul routes.

Back in 2009, in a federal economic-stimulus bill, Congress set aside $8 billion for high-speed passenger rail service. The Obama administration saw the funding as a pledge to build a national system.

Illinois won $1.34 billion of the stimulus bill’s money. The state then scooped $300 million more from the same pot when Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin declined funds. Illinois’s government chipped in $300 million of state money. Illinois had been studying fast passenger-rail service since the 1990s. Its goals, stated in an environmental study, included improving traveler safety and shifting travelers away from airport and highway congestion. The project got going before the state faced a severe budget squeeze.

“It really is about more closely knitting together the economies in the Midwest with a transportation mode that is efficient, environmentally friendly and, from a business perspective, one that allows a business traveler to remain highly productive while he is moving from city to city,” said Joseph Szabo, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and a former Federal Railroad Administrator under President Obama.

The twin cities of Bloomington-Normal, in central Illinois, are betting the improvements will be a boon to the local economy. Normal decided to abandon its old train station, which locals called “Amshack,” and invest in a multi-transportation center with new city-hall offices above, said Mayor Chris Koos. The city built a small park in front. The Illinois rail project has consisted of making major improvements to the route on which Amtrak provides service. Work started in September 2010 and was supposed to finish in seven years. A federal mandate requiring trains to have an automatic mechanism to prevent certain accidents helped push back the timeline.

It has been a monumental undertaking that required dealing with railroad companies, cities and landowners, said John Oimoen, deputy director of railroads in the state transportation department. More than 300 road crossings had to have separate agreements covering upgrades or closures. By late 2015, agency officials feared the project was dead, simply because so many deals needed to be negotiated before a deadline to spend the federal grant. The agency ultimately assigned its highway real-estate department to help finish the project.

Upgrading road crossings often meant rebuilding them, from drainage pipes up, to smooth passage for faster trains. Two extra signal arms were added to many crossings to keep drivers from going around them. Sensors to trip signals were upgraded and moved to allow the same warning time for faster trains. In towns, sidewalks were rebuilt and gated as well. The track was fenced for the first time in many places.

The state also faced years of delays in getting new rail cars. Nippon Sharyo of Nagoya, Japan, landed a contract in 2012. Because the federal grant that funded the work required cars to be built in the U.S. from U.S.-made parts, the Japanese company expanded a 460,000-square-foot factory in Rochelle, Ill., and rebuilt its supplier network. The company struggled to adapt designs and failed U.S. crashworthiness tests. In 2017 it withdrew from the contract and later closed the plant, meaning a side benefit Illinois hoped for—local jobs assembling rail cars—fizzled. The work moved to a Siemens AG facility in California.

Track and station construction work now is largely finished. There are six new stations, upgrades of others and dozens of rebuilt bridges and culverts. New locomotives are in service, and new railcars are due next year. The improvements will make the train ride faster, more comfortable and more reliable. The question is whether this will be enough to lure a large number of people out of their cars.

Heidi Verticchio takes the train a few times a week between her home in Carlinville, Ill., north of St. Louis, and Bloomington-Normal, where she directs a speech and hearing clinic for Illinois State University. Because the trains don’t run frequently enough, she often has to drive the 120 miles when she needs more flexibility. A higher speed won’t mean Ms. Verticchio will be taking the train more often. She estimates it might cut 10 to 15 minutes from her ride. “It’s not going to make any difference,” she said.

Most of the Chicago-St. Louis train corridor remains a single track. Freight railroads Union Pacific and Canadian National own most of the route. They coordinate all traffic, including passenger trains.

In the year that ended with November, according to an Amtrak report, Canadian National caused 1,672 minutes of delay per 10,000 Amtrak train-miles logged on the route. Union Pacific caused 1,036 minutes of delay per 10,000 Amtrak train-miles, Amtrak said. Both exceeded Amtrak’s target of 900.

The report attributed about two-thirds of the delays to “freight-train interference.” It found that 73% of rail passengers arrived on time, but for those who faced delays, these averaged 45 minutes. “Chicago is the nation’s largest rail hub and as such experiences a complex and congested network,” said a spokeswoman for Union Pacific. Though Union Pacific owns the line from Joliet, Ill., to St. Louis and controls movement on it, operations can be affected by other railroads as well, she said. Canadian National said more than 80% of the delays were due to another railroad.

Union Pacific has agreed to get at least 80% of Amtrak’s fast trains to Chicago or St. Louis on time once the project is complete. “The biggest game is reliability and on-time performance,” which builds ridership over time, said John Porcari, who was deputy U.S. secretary of transportation when the Obama administration awarded funds for the project.

The Illinois project has built 24 miles of a second track, including bypasses to shunt passenger trains around freights. It’s estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars would be needed to end all freight-passenger conflicts, including untangling three railroads’ lines where they converge in Springfield. Outside of regular Amtrak funding, which in 2018 was about $1.9 billion, Congress rarely provided money for intercity passenger rail prior to a 2008 bill authorizing federal grants for such projects, according to a Congressional Research Service report. The federal government awards about $3 billion a year for airport construction and $45 billion for highway construction.

Experts cite several reasons the U.S. trails similarly developed countries in high-speed rail. Chief among them are strong property rights, local land-use controls and the expense and benefits of extensive highway and aviation networks.

Robert Puentes, president of the Eno Center for Transportation in Washington, notes that the U.S. has used just one approach to passenger rail since the 1970s, Amtrak. The government-owned corporation was cobbled together from remnants of major railroads’ passenger services. It is funded through fares and state and federal subsidies.

European rail networks feature a mix of government and business owners and operators. Mr. Puentes said new investor-owned passenger rail ventures in Florida and Texas bear watching.

Rail advocates say one of the biggest challenges, after all the time and expense, remains showing American travelers there can be a better alternative than driving. “We’re the most car-dependent nation in the world,” said Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, which advocates for a national high-speed rail network.

The Illinois project’s 2012 environmental study found that 97.5% of the 51 million annual travelers between Chicago and St. Louis drove. Slightly over 1% of travelers flew, 0.2% took a bus, and 1.3% rode Amtrak trains. Driving takes around five hours—comparable to the train—and costs about $40 for fuel, also roughly comparable to the train, where the cost now is between $25 and $70.

The state says it has a realistic goal: reducing the share of travelers who drive to 94%—at best, 90%. In 2018, Amtrak reported that the corridor’s five daily trains in each direction carried 716,544 riders, about the same as 2017.

Barbara Reynolds, 79, recently took the Chicago-to-St. Louis train for the first time, on a visit to her son. Usually she flies. Would shaving an hour off the 5½-hour train trip make much difference to her? Not really, she said. “You usually end up waiting somewhere for an hour.”

 

 

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Posted by Carl Fowler on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 2:14 PM

Timz;

Compared to the current top speed of 80mph 110 mph is indeed 40% faster. But the speed comparison you gave is flawed, because it fails to account for very substantial mileage where the speed will be going not from 80 (79mph) to 110, but from much slower speeds to new maximums--sometimes 110, but always faster than before. For example no less than 68 grade crossings were sealed through Springfield, creating an essentially sealed corridor where speeds will be raised. Repairs have to done to raise speed through yard districts. Total exclusion gates protect all crossings. Delays for meets will be largely eliminated by the addition of 26 miles of double/passing tracks to the extant passing sidings.

The bottom line is that Illinois, the UP and Amtrak are contracturally obligated to reach the commited overall running times. This will ultimately come.

I am not an uncritical fan of this plan. It has taken a remarkable amount of time to build. The 18 miles that were (largely) cleared for 110 mph already between Dwight and Pontiac have reverted to 79mph as PTC is tested and implemented route-wide. In this short distance no great harm was done to the overall schedule, but it was a shame to see things go backwards if only for one to two years.

But while you might not be thrilled with a 60 minute speed-up over 284 miles, experience world-wide has shown that the combination of frequent service and speed over distances like this is truly potent in building ridership.

There is a line in the WSJ report that on the one-hand shows how weak both air and rail are in the market for the full run CHI/STL--but it also confirms the potential market that exists here. At present air has only 1% of the total market and rail 1.3% (although amazingly Amtrak's fairly slow current service does that well and is in effect 30% ahead of air already here). What this tells me is that the potential to increase market share from the 97.5% who drove is immense. (Buses have only .02 of the market).

Between 2008 thru 2013, when frequencies were increased from 3 to 5 daily trains, ridership grew 60% from 408,807 to 655,465. At this point came the begining of the really serious work on the higher speed construction project, which produced frequent route closures and very spotty on-time performance. Ridership dropped 10% to 590,000 in FY 2017, but the trend actually reversed and went up 7.9% between 2016 and 2017 as operations stabilized.

Neither you nor I know for sure what will happen when peak speeds jump to 110mph over most of the line between Joliet and Alton, but we will have to disagree on our guesses. I think this will be a landmark victory for incremental line improvements and you seem to believe it will not amount to much. As Trump likes to say we'll have to "wait and see"!

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 2:21 PM

Carl,

What have they done between Alton and St. Louis. When I rode many years ago I think we spent an hour to cover that 25 mile or so stretch.

Mac

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 2:47 PM

What can be done between Alton and St. Louis? Also, I have a memory that the Merchants Bridge needs work; is my memory correct? Or, does the passenger traffic use the McArthur Bridge?

Johnny

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Posted by Carl Fowler on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 3:01 PM

I don't think very much has been improved Alton to St. Louis except perhaps some new rail/ballast, alas, but I haven't been there in the last few years either. There is a new Alton station. The track from there into St. Louis has multiple owners--indeed Amtrak has inherited GM&O rights over two different bridges.

Both that segment and Chicago to Joliet are subject to future projects with future funding. I know there is a long-term plan to look at a reroute over the Metra Rock Island Line from Joliet, with some sort of new flyover to get onto the line into Union as opposed to La Salle Street Station, but this has a 1.5 billion dollar price tag--so it will be awhile!

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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 4:28 PM

Carl Fowler

...but this has a 1.5 billion dollar price tag--so it will be awhile!

 

 

That'll give time to see if the current experiment works:  massive increase of ridership, and concurrent massive increase in income.

And, "locally", we will see how the experiment between Merced and Bakersfield works out.  I expect to be driving past the construction site tomorrow, and look forward to viewing the progress.

Hopefully, these evaluations will be more objective than subjective.

 

Ed

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Posted by timz on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 6:27 PM

Carl Fowler
UP and Amtrak are contracturally obligated to reach the commited overall running times.

If the schedule doesn't turn out to be an hour faster, who goes to prison?

In California, people thought they could make the trains run SF to LA in 2 hr 40 min by passing a law that said the trains had to do that. Think the trains will obey the law? If not, will they go to prison?

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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, March 06, 2019 7:13 PM

timz

 

 
Carl Fowler
UP and Amtrak are contracturally obligated to reach the commited overall running times.

 

If the schedule doesn't turn out to be an hour faster, who goes to prison?

 

In California, people thought they could make the trains run SF to LA in 2 hr 40 min by passing a law that said the trains had to do that. Think the trains will obey the law? If not, will they go to prison?

 

Non-performance on a contract is not a criminal violation.

I'm not familiar with that particular California law.  If it states that they are offering a contract to build such a railroad, and you accept, and it doesn't, then that is failure to perform on a contract.  That frequently goes to civil court, unless the subject of fraud comes up.  THAT would be the prison part.

Note that no one in California government is expected to go to prison just because they didn't perform on their contract with the federal government.  Probably.  It will likely go to civil court, as the feds try to get money back from California.  Also, California could go to court to try to get more money.

 

Ed 

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Posted by YoHo1975 on Thursday, March 07, 2019 9:54 AM
Yeah, Contractual obligations are a civil matter. Is this ignorance of the law or a bad attempt at humor? If they don't meet their obligations, they can be sued by the state.
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Posted by Carl Fowler on Thursday, March 07, 2019 10:45 AM

Not only by the state, but by the USDOT as well. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, March 10, 2019 10:19 AM

7j43k
I can envision the annual operating profit increasing to $10 million a year, with increased ridership and a raise in fares.  If the project costs $2 billion, then the expense will be paid down in 200 years.  This, of course, is VERY approximate.

First and foremost, hasn't the investment made train times more reliable in the area of ontime departures and arrivals.    One could argue the addition of fencing and quad gates as very expensive but also having a direct impact on ontime arrival by avoidance of train vehicle or train pedestrian incidents along this line.  They also replaced the signal system in most cases along this line and that is going to be more reliable as well.

Also the above look at cost vs benefit is very narrow.   I am pretty confident the project will definitely pay back in a LOT faster than 200 years into the Illinois Treasury at least.    Though the ancillary impacts are more difficult to measure.   What are the increased property values along the line and what is the annual bump up in property taxes collected?    There HAS to be some impact here with all the stations they built as well as rehabbing they did.   Did the line contribute to a raise in family incomes and perhaps Illinois State Income tax collections?    Didn't increasing the speed of the line along with train frequency make living further out from Chicago and St. Louis more feasible by using the high speed train to commute?

Has the increase in speed resulted in more train frequencies being more feasible economically and if so, has the increased mobility generated additional Economic benefit in anyway through increased spending in the communities along the line?

How much has the increase to 110 mph..........lowered the incremental cost to increase from 110 mph to 125 mph?

Another question to be asked:

Would adding just a point to point Chicago to St. Louis train with no intermediate stops (ie: Express train) be feasible now or do we need to move to 125 mph first?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, March 10, 2019 10:37 AM

timz
f the schedule doesn't turn out to be an hour faster, who goes to prison?

If it was written into the Ray LaHood grant from the Obama Administration as a performance measure and that performance measure was not met.   They need either a waiver from the Feds or need to consider paying back the grants from the Obama Administration in which were predicated on achieving a completed project that met specific performance measures.   In other words they would be in the same situation California is now.

BTW, outside of DoD contracts or contract violations that place human lives at stake, few people in this country go to prison for contract violations, they usually are remediated by fines, waivers or arbitrated agreements.

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