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Additional passenger rail in Illinois

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Additional passenger rail in Illinois
Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 3:54 PM

"On the Quad Cities route, negotiations between the Iowa Interstate Railroad and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) seem to be at an impasse. The letter asks the governor to direct IDOT to engage Amtrak to negotiate with the railroad and take action at the Surface Transportation Board, if needed.

On the Rockford route, a decision needs to be made regarding whether Amtrak or Metra will operate the trains. The letter asks the governor to direct IDOT to announce that decision quickly and move forward with final engineering."

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 5:50 PM

What are the specific IIS concerns with the proposed Quad Cities extension (from the turn at Wyanet to Moline)?  I have known Henry Posner for nearly 50 years, and if he has concerns they're very likely legitimate.

I don't understand why Metra and not Amtrak Illinois would be the operator of this train.  It's a LOT further to get there, and METRA service is already pretty slow for the existing connections.  Would the Amtrak bus service be eliminated if METRA runs parallel service?

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 10:03 AM

Rockford is only 90 miles from the Loop and suburban sprawl is edging its way in that direction.  It would not be unreasonable for Metra to operate that line as an extension of an existing line.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 9:07 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

Rockford is only 90 miles from the Loop and suburban sprawl is edging its way in that direction.  It would not be unreasonable for Metra to operate that line as an extension of an existing line.

Wasn't the original plan to go to Eastern Iowa with this train?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 9:11 PM

Overmod
What are the specific IIS concerns with the proposed Quad Cities extension (from the turn at Wyanet to Moline)?  I have known Henry Posner for nearly 50 years, and if he has concerns they're very likely legitimate.

Here you go, in the link below.   He wants $750 million to upgrade 55 miles of rail.

https://www.ourquadcities.com/news/local-news/amtrak-idot-hope-to-help-resolve-rail-impasse/

 

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Posted by Gramp on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 11:30 PM

CMStPnP

 

 
CSSHEGEWISCH

Rockford is only 90 miles from the Loop and suburban sprawl is edging its way in that direction.  It would not be unreasonable for Metra to operate that line as an extension of an existing line.

 

Wasn't the original plan to go to Eastern Iowa with this train?

 

To Dubuque on CN. 
Belvidere auto plant on UP has closed now so UP freight has no doubt shriveled. 
Boone and Winnebago Counties are not part of original RTA region Metra can operate in. Don't think that has changed. 


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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, April 6, 2023 3:11 AM

Gramp
To Dubuque on CN.  Belvidere auto plant on UP has closed now so UP freight has no doubt shriveled.  Boone and Winnebago Counties are not part of original RTA region Metra can operate in. Don't think that has changed. 

A about 8-10 years ago I did a 18 month project in Schaumburg, IL and just about lived in the Hyatt there.    I used METRA quite a bit to get into and out of Chicago vs taking my rental car in and risking redecoration of it.    Compared to Dallas and the Trinity Rail Express trains to Fort Worth.    Metra has a long ways to go before I would recommend it to anyone.    The biggest issue was I never knew what the hell station the train was stopping at because there was no head up display.    Second issue was the cattle car atmosphere of the gallery cars........no way to tranport humans.    Third issue was......well no roving transit police anywhere?   No wonder there are occasional shoot-outs on board.     Then there was another almost full page of lack of convience complaints but won't take up space with those.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, April 6, 2023 9:24 AM

In order to get Federal funding (without which $750M would be rather obviously nonstarting) I suspect Amtrak would have to be involved.  It appears to me that Iowa Interstate is being expected to pay for the stations, parking, and approach infrastructure involved in the prospective stops for this train, in addition to track improvements -- are they to 79mph or something different?  How many crossings will need to be quad-gated and median'd to be "safe" for IDOT?  somebody point me at the current presumptive technical details if available.

What this is about is:  “Unfortunately, the Iowa Interstate Railroad still wishes to pursue a scope of improvements that would be cost-prohibitive to taxpayers."  That would imply that the STB is indeed the correct 'forum' to mediate this discussion, and that this should commence as early as IDOT (and perhaps Amtrak) can get a credible-scope proposal documented with them.  One alternative might be for Amtrak to pay the capital or rental charges on a couple of TLMs, and then have IIS pay the actual amount to run and maintain them while the trackwork is improved.  The Chinese TLMs and European ballast/subgrade remediation equipment could possibly complete 55 miles of track, even under current traffic, in a matter of no more than weeks... and FRA/DOT could likely justify much of the cost as legitimate 'experimentation' with the state-of-the-art.

As noted, legislation would have to be passed allowing METRA to operate in the counties mentioned.   That we haven't seen this may be indicative of (proper, in my view) intent for the route to be operated with Amtrak Illinois equipment.  I believe METRA is phasing out gallery cars, but the actual track mileage here is even greater than NYC-PHL via NJT/SEPTA joint arrangement, and it was a misery riding Silverliners that distance even with them well exceeding 100mph between many stations.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, April 6, 2023 9:58 AM

I have been riding bi-level gallery coaches to and from work on a daily basis since 1980.  I have yet to establish the basis of the complaints of others unless they are expecting a Superliner level of comfort and legroom which just isn't going to be found in any equipment built for suburban service.  Any coaches designed for suburban service are built with a short haul and high capacity in mind.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, April 6, 2023 12:30 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
I have been riding bi-level gallery coaches to and from work on a daily basis since 1980.  I have yet to establish the basis of the complaints of others unless they are expecting a Superliner level of comfort and legroom which just isn't going to be found in any equipment built for suburban service.  Any coaches designed for suburban service are built with a short haul and high capacity in mind.

At Fort Benning we used to ride in the back of slatted semi-trailers to get around post during basic training, which was very hot in the Georgia Climate but they would just pull into a wash rack every so often and hose us down with a fire hose through the slats so we wouldn't get heat exhaustion.    Most of us back then thought that was enough as well for transportation and I never heard any verbal complaints at the time either.    The transportation was free and we were not walking.    Now they have climate controlled trailers with nice padded seats, dark tinted windows and probably and upgraded suspension system.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, April 6, 2023 12:34 PM

Overmod
I believe METRA is phasing out gallery cars

Hoping for the GO Transit style for replacement but I am not really confident given the track record of past decisions.

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, April 6, 2023 3:59 PM

CMStPnP
 
CSSHEGEWISCH
I have been riding bi-level gallery coaches to and from work on a daily basis since 1980.  I have yet to establish the basis of the complaints of others unless they are expecting a Superliner level of comfort and legroom which just isn't going to be found in any equipment built for suburban service.  Any coaches designed for suburban service are built with a short haul and high capacity in mind. 

At Fort Benning we used to ride in the back of slatted semi-trailers to get around post during basic training, which was very hot in the Georgia Climate but they would just pull into a wash rack every so often and hose us down with a fire hose through the slats so we wouldn't get heat exhaustion.    Most of us back then thought that was enough as well for transportation and I never heard any verbal complaints at the time either.    The transportation was free and we were not walking.    Now they have climate controlled trailers with nice padded seats, dark tinted windows and probably and upgraded suspension system.

Your Fort Benning transportation sounds like it used the German model circa 1940-45, without the 'cooling station' for the heat.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, April 7, 2023 11:55 AM

Overmod
don't understand why Metra and not Amtrak Illinois would be the operator of this train.  It's a LOT further to get there, and METRA service is already pretty slow for the existing connections.  

The only route where Metra operation is a consideration is to Rockford.  

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, April 7, 2023 11:59 AM

CMStPnP

 

 
Overmod
I believe METRA is phasing out gallery cars

 

Hoping for the GO Transit style for replacement but I am not really confident given the track record of past decisions.

 

All future Metra orders are for something other than the gallery prison cars, but phasing out would be a long process. Electrification of about four to six routes would be a common sense, contemporary mode, but that ain't happening.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, April 7, 2023 2:41 PM

charlie hebdo
The only route where Metra operation is a consideration is to Rockford.

I'm going off the (possibly derogatory) comment in the article that 'existing' access required a ~31-minute drive followed by an hour-and-a-half train slog.  Presumably a "comparable" METRA service 'the whole way to Rockford' would be longer still.  I'd expect many of the communities 'inconvenienced' by the passenger service would at least request stations near them to make it worth their while to tolerate.  It would (to me) make sense to use Amtrak Illinois as the operator, capable of passing up some of the Metra stops to get a higher operating speed or more direct last-mile access into Chicago to avoid some of the 'Joe Sixpack' issues I remember from certain other threads.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, April 7, 2023 11:23 PM

Overmod
It would (to me) make sense to use Amtrak Illinois as the operator, capable of passing up some of the Metra stops to get a higher operating speed or more direct last-mile access into Chicago to avoid some of the 'Joe Sixpack' issues I remember from certain other threads.

The problem with METRA is the Chicago area dominance in management and control.   They seem to try to do a good job but are always in that straight jacket of operation.   It would be tugging at me as a potential issue if I was Mayor of Rockford and definitely would be an issue if I was in Debuque.    The other issue with METRA is the almost complete abscence of innovation and expense control / budgeting.   Again Amtrak too has issues there but not as bad as METRA.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, April 8, 2023 6:59 AM

Overmod
It would (to me) make sense to use Amtrak Illinois as the operator, capable of passing up some of the Metra stops to get a higher operating speed or more direct last-mile access into Chicago to avoid some of the 'Joe Sixpack' issues I remember from certain other threads.

In past studies, several routes were considered. The return of the Blackhawk or Hawkeye was going to be Amtrak operated on the CN route much/all of the way with few intermediate stops until CN started to run more freights. Then an alternate routing of UP West to West Chicago, then on UP to Belvidere and onward to Rockford but politics in the form of Bruce "Bipartisanly Despised" Rauner got in the way   Who knows what comes next?

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Posted by Gramp on Saturday, April 8, 2023 11:55 PM

The Galena and Chicago Union probably had a faster timetable than would exist today. 
Always enjoyed the 79mph Land O'Corn and Hawkeye when I was a kid and Black Hawk later.  But it was always slow from Broadview into the Lakefront or Loop. Did also take City trains on Milw. Road into Chicago from Davis Junction. Those were 90mph with domes with faster Chicago entry. Today, most of these projected new trains are leaps into the declining past. The Illinois Railway Museum at Union, IL markets its paralleling Interurban segment to today's needs and wants better. 

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Posted by OWTX on Sunday, April 9, 2023 11:56 AM

It's about 20 miles from the border of the RTA service area to Rockford on the UP.

I believe this would be a operating contract rather than RTA funded Metra service - like how they operate across the cheese curtain to Kenosha.

There have been a number of state and commuter agencies that have passed on an Amtrak operating contract. Maybe some issues there, maybe not, I don't know.

They've dropped west of Rockford due to CN intransigence, and the trains would cross-over at Big Timber onto Milwaukee West for a non-stop run to Union Station.

Planned stop are Rockford, Belvidere, Huntley, Elgin, Chicago.

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Posted by Gramp on Sunday, April 9, 2023 10:13 PM

Lots of dollars needed to make those 38 miles passenger friendly.  If they can do it, maybe they could name it Pioneer Service in honor of the original locomotive used on the route.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, April 11, 2023 12:40 AM

Gramp
Lots of dollars needed to make those 38 miles passenger friendly.  If they can do it, maybe they could name it Pioneer Service in honor of the original locomotive used on the route.

I am still at a loss to explain why they gave up on CN so easily.    Everyone treats the CN like Darth Vader when it comes to attempting passenger rail service and tip toes away from them.    Now this is the same CN that actively shakes the tree for state money to subsidize money losing frieght routes in the states...........and yet no leverage on passenger trains?  

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Posted by Gramp on Tuesday, April 11, 2023 2:54 PM

You'd think they'd be bent on serving northwest Illinois as a whole including Rockford since Rockford nominally is the largest urban center outside Chicago.  And going west, there's Freeport, the Galena Territory which is a tourist/recreation destination, and Dubuque.  Amtrak was to be an intercity system as I recall.

The IC (CN) was the natural rail line to use.  Not counting BNSF from Dubuque in this.  I've always thought that the best physical arrangement would be for a connection be added to the Milwaukee at Genoa.  Decades ago, there was one there.  That would make for a long-term nice, fast route from Rockford into Chicago.  Even goes within range of O'hare.  Just make the Rockford stop be at Alpine or Perryville Road.  The city wants a downtown station (which was torn down).  Rockford is a war zone currently like many cities.  You've got to be careful where you go when.  Lots of shots fired.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, April 11, 2023 10:33 PM

CMStPnP

 

 
Gramp
Lots of dollars needed to make those 38 miles passenger friendly.  If they can do it, maybe they could name it Pioneer Service in honor of the original locomotive used on the route.

 

I am still at a loss to explain why they gave up on CN so easily.    Everyone treats the CN like Darth Vader when it comes to attempting passenger rail service and tip toes away from them.    Now this is the same CN that actively shakes the tree for state money to subsidize money losing frieght routes in the states...........and yet no leverage on passenger trains?  

 

My guess is that if the states have to pay CN to keep rail service on marginal lines, then it's CN that has the leverage.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 7:31 AM

Gramp

You'd think they'd be bent on serving northwest Illinois as a whole including Rockford since Rockford nominally is the largest urban center outside Chicago.  And going west, there's Freeport, the Galena Territory which is a tourist/recreation destination, and Dubuque.  Amtrak was to be an intercity system as I recall.

The IC (CN) was the natural rail line to use.  Not counting BNSF from Dubuque in this.  I've always thought that the best physical arrangement would be for a connection be added to the Milwaukee at Genoa.  Decades ago, there was one there.  That would make for a long-term nice, fast route from Rockford into Chicago.  Even goes within range of O'hare.  Just make the Rockford stop be at Alpine or Perryville Road.  The city wants a downtown station (which was torn down).  Rockford is a war zone currently like many cities.  You've got to be careful where you go when.  Lots of shots fired.

I am curious what this means for Chicago to Green Bay service.   I don't see WisDOT rolling over like this.    So far for CN is that there has not been broad grass roots support yet for restoration of Chicago to Green Bay and that is the main reason why WisDOT has not worked on it yet.    If that were ever to change though I wonder how the approach with CN would unfold.    Would it be confrontational or cooperative........I don't think WisDOT would abandon CN as part of the Chicago to Green Bay solution.    Time will tell I guess.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, April 13, 2023 10:55 AM

The Rockford/Dubuque and Quad Cities proposals only involve IDOT.

I would think the GB services should be MKE to GB only, rather than the extension to CHI with a cross platform connection to a CHI train.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, April 13, 2023 3:07 PM

charlie hebdo
I would think the GB services should be MKE to GB only, rather than the extension to CHI with a cross platform connection to a CHI train.

The only major issue I have with this is that it makes the Green Bay service an exclusively intrastate corridor, for which the state would be paying extensive subsidy.  If any substantial volume of traffic is actually between Chicagoland and Green Bay, it might make sense to replace one or more of the existing Chicago-Milwaukee trips with the new trainsets and apply any subsidies there to help with the new train.

I think a case could be made for Illinois participation based on riders, rather than route-miles.

On the other hand, equipment utilization and perhaps propensity for damage or vandalism is probably much greater if the new trains go the whole distance.  If the new trains have enhanced features and amenities, as I would argue they should have, keeping them in dedicated Wisconsin service under 'better controlled conditions' would be a very good idea indeed.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, April 13, 2023 11:44 PM

Overmod
The only major issue I have with this is that it makes the Green Bay service an exclusively intrastate corridor, for which the state would be paying extensive subsidy. 

I'm OK with that because there are a lot of very wealthy people in the Fox River Valley......not exactly West Virgina.   They can easily afford it.   Though I do not like the cross platform change in Milwaukee either plus Chicago really needs access to a decent NFL team.

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Posted by ANDREW R TOWNSEND on Thursday, June 1, 2023 3:29 PM

The Chicago-Rockford routing and operator has been going back and forth for about as long as I've lived in Rockford (since the mid-90's). The all CN route was it, then it wasn't due to CN's demands, or as a person familiar with it said, CN said they would approve it, as long as IDOT paid for new 136 lb. stainless steel rail, Phillipine mahogany ties, titanium spikes & tie plates, PTC, and not one item less. The then governor went with the current plan, using Metra Milwaukee West to a new connection with the UP Belvidere Sub at Big Timber. Then the mayor of Genoa got involved, and had enough pull to have it put back to the CN. Then a new governor, who killed the whole thing for his one term. Then the project was back on with Gov. Pritzker, but due to issues with CN as noted before, they went back to the Metra Milwaukee West to UP Belvidere Sub route. Beyond Rockford, CN is the only option to Freeport, Galena, Dubuque, etc. which they decided to table until later, and get Chicago-Rockford up and working. The Belvidere Sub isn't in too bad a shape from where the Big Timber connection would be to Belvidere, UP rehabbed it a few years back. As I recall, it would be OK for 59 mph passenger operations initially, and could be upgraded to 79 mph once PTC was installed (now dark territory). West of Belvidere, it's 10 mph yard limits trackage that would have to be rehabbed, although UP has been working on rehabbing the old KD Line portion, and replacing crossings in Rockford. Other than that, besides more grade crossing gates, it would just require the Big Timber connection to the ex-MILW, which has already been engineered and approved by Metra, reinstalling a passing siding at Marengo, and a Belvidere yard bypass. There was a brownfield site just off Alpine Road that was donated for a station maybe 10 years ago, but the owners of the Embassy Suites hotel & convention center downtown demanded a station adjacent to the hotel as part of the deal with the city to get that built. Downtown north of the intended station has been receiving a lot of attention and development, and there seem to be some fair-sized crowds around for Ice Hogs games and concerts/events/conventions at the adjacent BMO Center or Coronado Theater. As noted earlier, the issue with Metra is that Boone and Winnebago counties aren't included in the RTA district. As I remember it, that would require voter referendum approvals, and an additional .25% sales tax. As they say, good luck with that. With Amtrak's nationwide jurisdiction, they could start operating right away. There was also something discussed about Winnebago and Boone counties purchasing contracted service from Metra, which is how Kenosha is in the system. But that sounded like that wasn't all that straightforward a project, either, especially with UP involved. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, June 1, 2023 7:02 PM

ANDREW R TOWNSEND

The Chicago-Rockford routing and operator has been going back and forth for about as long as I've lived in Rockford (since the mid-90's). The all CN route was it, then it wasn't due to CN's demands, or as a person familiar with it said, CN said they would approve it, as long as IDOT paid for new 136 lb. stainless steel rail, Phillipine mahogany ties, titanium spikes & tie plates, PTC, and not one item less. The then governor went with the current plan, using Metra Milwaukee West to a new connection with the UP Belvidere Sub at Big Timber. Then the mayor of Genoa got involved, and had enough pull to have it put back to the CN. Then a new governor, who killed the whole thing for his one term. Then the project was back on with Gov. Pritzker, but due to issues with CN as noted before, they went back to the Metra Milwaukee West to UP Belvidere Sub route. Beyond Rockford, CN is the only option to Freeport, Galena, Dubuque, etc. which they decided to table until later, and get Chicago-Rockford up and working. The Belvidere Sub isn't in too bad a shape from where the Big Timber connection would be to Belvidere, UP rehabbed it a few years back. As I recall, it would be OK for 59 mph passenger operations initially, and could be upgraded to 79 mph once PTC was installed (now dark territory). West of Belvidere, it's 10 mph yard limits trackage that would have to be rehabbed, although UP has been working on rehabbing the old KD Line portion, and replacing crossings in Rockford. Other than that, besides more grade crossing gates, it would just require the Big Timber connection to the ex-MILW, which has already been engineered and approved by Metra, reinstalling a passing siding at Marengo, and a Belvidere yard bypass. There was a brownfield site just off Alpine Road that was donated for a station maybe 10 years ago, but the owners of the Embassy Suites hotel & convention center downtown demanded a station adjacent to the hotel as part of the deal with the city to get that built. Downtown north of the intended station has been receiving a lot of attention and development, and there seem to be some fair-sized crowds around for Ice Hogs games and concerts/events/conventions at the adjacent BMO Center or Coronado Theater. As noted earlier, the issue with Metra is that Boone and Winnebago counties aren't included in the RTA district. As I remember it, that would require voter referendum approvals, and an additional .25% sales tax. As they say, good luck with that. With Amtrak's nationwide jurisdiction, they could start operating right away. There was also something discussed about Winnebago and Boone counties purchasing contracted service from Metra, which is how Kenosha is in the system. But that sounded like that wasn't all that straightforward a project, either, especially with UP involved. 

I don't understand all this tip-toeing around CN within the State of Illinois.   I am curious how Wisconsin DOT is going to handle CN with the potential Chicago to Green Bay service.   We'll see.   WisDOT I think already has a working relationship of sorts with CN on the Frieght side so maybe that helps, maybe not.   If not then play hardball with CN.   

I don't understand all this nervousness around playing hard ball with CN.   Use the power of the State or Federal government here and get the most efficient routing.  Thats the public interest here.    We didn't put up with this nonsense in the robber barron era, not sure why we are tolerating it now. 

I can't even believe Amtrak is tolerating that minimum 7 car nonsense on the part of CN either.    Take them to court again or visit the issue on Congress to either get that requirement dropped or get CN to upgrade their traffic signaling system.

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Posted by Gramp on Friday, June 2, 2023 7:25 AM

The way things are going, might just be smarter to stick to automobubble travel. 

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