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

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  • Member since
    May 2004
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Posted by 7j43k on Tuesday, March 5, 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?
  • Member since
    July 2011
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Posted by runnerdude48 on Tuesday, March 5, 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.
  • Member since
    January 2019
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Wall Street Journal Article on the Chicago-St. Louis Higher Speed Rail Project
Posted by Carl Fowler on Tuesday, March 5, 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

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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