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The Midwest HSR Association has long been a Chicago-Centric organization, which is fitting because for many of the urban areas in the nine states that are members of the "Midwest Regional Rail Initiative" intercity rail planning organization, Chicago is included among their top three to five intercity travel destinations.

With the Cross-Rail Chicago proposal, the Midwest HSR Association is proposing to start building from the inside out, providing a set of profits in the Chicago Area that will then provide the through-Chicago system for  intercity rail avoiding the difficult "last mile" problem that the California HSR has to tackle in getting into downtown San Francisco and to Los Angeles Union Station. The proposed project proceeds in phases, with each phase addressing a Chicago regional transport need, even as the total project provides the infrastructure that 110mph and 125mph Rapid Passenger Intercity Rail and 220mph "bullet train" HSR can use to connect to Chicago Union Station and O'Hare International Airport.

The phases are:

  • Expanding Union Station, making use of two existing through tracks and reconstructing unused mail platforms for passenger use;
  • Union Station to O'Hare, reconstructing Metra's "Milwaukee West" district and building a short section of new rail, initially to a station connecting to the "ATS" people mover extension to the new rental car facility, and eventually via underground stations connecting directly to the O'Hare terminals;
  • Reconstructing the St. Charles Air Line elevated tracks along 16th Street to connect the Union Station through tracks to Metra's Electric and Rock Island Corridors south of Union Station;
  • With I-90 extensions northwest of O'Hare to Elgin, and then to Rockford Illinois;
  • With I-56 extensions south of the 16th Street Connector to University Park, and then to Kankakee and Champaign

The Midwest HSR Association's indicative cost estimate for this project is $9.6b, with the Phase One from the 16th Street Connector through Union Station to the O'Hare Transfer Station estimated at $2b.

Midwest HSR's Cross-Rail Chicago Proposal and the Proven French Model for Building HSR

The vision of the Midwest HSR Association extends beyond the system of 110mph Rapid Passenger Rail corridors envisioned in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative to include 220mph bullet train HSR corridors:

  • Chicago to Minneapolis / St. Paul via Milwaukee, WI, Madison WI, and Rochester, MN;
  • Chicago to St. Louis via Springfield IL and Champaign IL;
  • Chicago to Cincinnati via Indianapolis IN;
  • Chicago to Detroit and Chicago to Cleveland, both via Fort Wayne, IN and Toledo, OH.

Bullet train corridors do not come cheap. While the cost of the proposed 110mph Rapid Rail Columbus, OH to Chicago via Fort Wayne, IN corridor is estimated at a capital cost of $1.3b, the full cost of the entire Midwest HSR Association vision, including the 220mph bullet train corridors, is in the neighborhood of $80b. The only thing that saves it from the cost of the California HSR system is that the terrain is much more favorable for rail corridors.

Given the high price tag of the bullet train corridors, the question arises what is the smallest segment that can be built that will obtain sufficient benefit from the higher speed to justify the investment in dedicated bullet train corridors, with their complete grade separation and the sweeping curves required to allow the trains to maintain their speed. The successful French approach to building economical bullet train corridors has been to use existing Rapid Rail corridors to gain access into the largest cities, and focus the actual bullet train corridors out in the countryside where they are less expensive to build. They have also frequently built their corridors in phases, from Paris running out, so that the opening of the first phase drops the transit time by a substantial increment, and the next phase drops it further, and so on until it is completed.

We have not had an opportunity to do that in the United States, because we rarely have established Intercity Rapid Rail corridors with developed express access into the heart of our large cities. However, if Cross-Rail Chicago were to be pursued, then we could indeed follow that approach.

The range of opportunities has increased still further with the news this week regarding the long standing Federal Rail Authority regulations that have required passenger trains running on conventional rail corridors to meet specific "buff strength" standards in order to be allowed to operated without proceeding through a complex, and uncertain, regulatory process in an attempt to establish that the "non-compliant" train offers equivalent passenger safety to "compliant" trains.

From the Next City blog: Long Barred from American Tracks, European Train Designs Could Get Rolling by 2015:

Beginning in 2015, regulators and manufacturers expect the FRA to allow modern European designs on tracks throughout the country, running side by side with heavy freight at all times of day. There will be no special signaling requirements for trains purchased under the new rules, although a separate requirement for more advancing anti-collision signaling, called positive train control, is set to kick in around the same time.
Crash safety reform has been slowly building at the FRA for more than a decade, and until now modern European designs were only available to agencies that could endure an onerous waiver process, and only if they could keep other trains off the tracks during service hours. ...
Alois Starlinger, head of structural analysis, testing and certification at Swiss rail car manufacturer Stadler, was more optimistic. The new rules, he said, would allow agencies to purchase equipment that’s nearly off the shelf, with only small modifications. (Starlinger was deeply involved with the engineering task force that wrote the new rules.)
This is the best possible news for pursuing bullet train corridors along the lines of the French approach, since it would allow the substantiall less expensive and quicker to build 110mph Rapid Rail corridors to be built up, and then for 220mph corridors to be built in segments to accelerate the trips.

If combined with the Cross-Rail Chicago project, it means that a train could run from a 110mph Rapid Rail corridor onto a 220mph bullet train corridor, then back onto the regional Express Rail corridor to run through Union Station and O'Hare, then connecting from the Cross-Rail Chicago corridor to a 220mph bullet train corridor, and finally completing its route on a 110mph Rapid Rail corridor.

In a fully elaborated system, the routes attracting the most patronage would run entirely at 220mph, while the routes serving smaller transport markets would operate primarily on 110mph corridors, unless and until they meet an existing 220mph to complete their trip.

So this is the appeal from the perspective of improving the sustainability of intercity transport.

Midwest HSR's Inside Out Model  & Building a Coalition for HSR

However, supporters of the benefits of high speed rail for intercity transport are only one set of prospective members of a political coalition in support of the Cross-Rail Chicago system. They include the prospective passengers on both the O'Hare to Elgin to Rockford corridor and the Champaign to University Park to Union Station corridors. Both of those benefit from core efficiency in the Cross-Rail Chicago project, that it is a through running project, a single two-hour route from Champaign to Rockford that runs through Hyde Park, McCormack Place, Union Station and O'Hare airport in the middle of its route.

It also supports interstate through-running and offers O'Hare airport access to both downstate trains and interstate trains using that through running, including Milwaukee WI from O'Hare, Madison WI from Rockford, IL, and both Northern Indiana and Indianapolis from the 16th Street connector.

The Cross-Rail Chicago project offers benefits both within the Chicago Region and in other parts of the state, as well as offering interstate transport benefits that would justify Federal involvement in funding the project, whether under different political terrain in the US House of Representatives, or as a result of US Senate support combined with the Senate supporting something of sufficient interest to the House.

While, evidently, the Cross-Rail passenger express train should have subsidized operations, the opportunities for express operations and the larger motorist-paid cost of driving in downtown Chicago due to the cost of parking seems likely to offer an opportunity to provide service with relatively modest subsidies per passenger mile, and the connections that regular passengers on the train make to other parts of the Chicago mass transit system would further improve the political base for providing those services the level of subsidy that economic efficiency demands.

The Impact On The Broader Regional Economy

One thing that consideration of the Midwest HSR Association vision for intercity rail brings to my mind is the concept of Mega-Regions. The way that this is described by America 2050, the national infrastructure planning and policy program of the Regional Plan Association is:

As metropolitan regions continued to expand throughout the second half of the 20th century their boundaries began to blur, creating a new scale of geography now known as the megaregion. Interlocking economic systems, shared natural resources and ecosystems, and common transportation systems link these population centers together. As continued population growth and low density settlement patterns place increasing pressure on these systems, there is greater impetus to coordinate policy at this expanded scale.
Most of the nation's rapid population growth, and an even larger share of its economic expansion, is expected to occur in 11 megaregions: large networks of metropolitan regions, each megaregion covering thousands of square miles and located in every part of the country.
The megaregions of the United States are defined by layers of relationships that together define a common interest; this common interest, in turn, forms the basis for policy decisions. The five major categories of relationships that define megaregions are:
  • Environmental systems and topography
  • Infrastructure systems
  • Economic linkages
  • Settlement patterns and land use
  • Shared culture and history
The map above is from the Georgia Tech Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development Megaregion Initiative. The Midwestern / Great Lakes Mega-Region is in dark purple. The only portion of the population centers allocated to the Midwestern / Great Lakes Mega-Region that is not included in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative is Columbus / Central Ohio and Pittsburgh / Western PA ... which are brought into the system by the Ohio Hub project, included as part of the Midwest HSR Association vision.

Governors Kasich of Ohio and Walker of Wisconsin may have delayed particular corridors in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, but with Ohio's money going to Michigan instead, neither were able to entirely suppress progress in implementing the first 110mph Rapid Rail corridors, with the Chicago to St. Louis corridor slated to begin operation in 2015 and the 110mph section of the Wolverine that currently extends from Porter Indiana to Kalamazoo, MI is expected to extend to Dearborn, MI by 2015, cutting two hours off of the Detroit to Chicago trip.

Adding a through-running Express Rail corridor through Chicago Union Station and O'Hare International will only increase the appeal of knitting the urban areas of this "Mega-Region" together with Intercity rail, and as improved service rolls out to those cities fortunate enough to not have their 2009 HSR funding thrown back to other states by their Governor, that will increase the strength of the "we'd like to have nice things like they have" effect.

Indeed, to a certain extend a Mega-Region becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we in the Midwest / Great Lakes states invest in more sustainable and energy efficiency intercity transport alternatives, that will increase the security of business and other relationships between the urban areas in the "Mega-Region", encouraging investment in those relationships ... and in the end, it is the network of relationships between people living in different urban centers in the "Mega-Region" that actually constitutes the real world system that the label "Mega-Region" is being applied to.

Conversations, Considerations and Contemplations

As you can tell, I find many aspects of the Cross-Rail Chicago proposal to be quite compelling. That does not mean that I am wed to every aspect of the proposal. For example, I would have to see more detailed benefit/cost analysis of the underground terminal stations to decide whether I believe that the undergound terminal stations are worth the cost. From my experience using the Sydney Airport underground terminal station, I believe that these are often the most civilized ways available to access a large hub airport ... I am a bit skeptical of spending funds for local or regional transport on airport access. And as I discussed on 7 Feb, 2010 in Sunday Train: Take This Train to the Airport, to be Aviation trust fund eligible, "the access road or facility must exclusively serve airport traffic." which means that while the underground terminal station may be eligible for Aviation Trust Fund funding, a through corridor to serve that station will not normally be eligible. It may be that if the underground airport corridor is connecting on both sides to an existing rail corridor, it might then qualify ... and given the benefit to air travelers at O'Hare if some of the smaller regional connector services are replaced with intercity rail transport, would certainly be a justified investment by the Aviation trust fund.

However, now, as always, rather looking for some overarching conclusion, I now open the floor to the comments of those reading.

If you have an issue on some other area of sustainable transport or sustainable energy production, please feel free to start a new main comment. To avoid confusing me, given my tendency to filter comments through the topic of this week's Sunday Train, feel free to use the shorthand "NT:" in the subject line when introducing this kind of new topic.

And if you have a topic in sustainable transport or energy that you want me to take a look at in the coming month, be sure to include that as well.

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 06:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Trouble with Chicago is that it's surrounded... (8+ / 0-)

    .....by states run by Republicans.

    I don't know how you get to square one, unless you just build in Illinois and hope the politics of the other states eventually change.

    •  Michigan is run by Republicans, that ... (13+ / 0-)

      ... hasn't prevented work on the Michigan to Chicago corridor from continuing.

      Given the electoral base of the Republican parties in outer suburban, rural and small town areas, the way that small town Chambers of Commerce tend to push for rail service once they begin to be aware of the benefits to other towns in the region that have rail service is part of the dynamic.

      And don't project the 2010 results through to 2018 and 2022 ... for instance, the gerrymandered Republican hold on the Ohio Assembly is not as permanently secure as it may seem on the surface, since it rests in part on R-leaning suburban independents who can indeed be turned off by excessively radical tea party types.

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      by BruceMcF on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 06:33:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's true. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, poligirl, thomask, JeffW, Yoshimi

        Though I'm wondering if building out from Chicago is something of a political calculation -- in that they're starting where they're not going to get as much opposition.

        (Nothing wrong with that, mind you. It's the smart thing to do.)

        •  It certainly is a political calculation ... (8+ / 0-)

          ... that there is a benefit to joining forces with those who would support an Express Rail regional commuter service in getting work done. For some of those in the coalition, that commuter service is the benefit. For some, its the express train to the airport. For some, its the connection of the Metra Rock Island and Electric lines to Union Station.

          For the Midwest HSR Association, it will be of use ~ and particularly the first phase ~ to any progress on any upgraded intercity rail.

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          by BruceMcF on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 06:44:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Small-town Chambers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SouthernLeveller

        Isn't one of the main problems in putting through HSR projects (or ANY rail projects, is that these small-town and suburban business interests would be happy to have more and better train service - as long as they don't have to pay for it? And that Republicans - for whatever reason - have got a particularly toxic bug up their collective backsides over anything to do with rail?

        Your mention of the French system for development of HSR networks elides one point, I think: the French government, IIRC, pays for everything without the obsession with "cost-effectiveness" and "profitability" which too many American politicians seem to use as an excuse to sink any rail-related ideas (and not just the GOP, though it seems to be a fetish with them).

        •  Look at the agreement that kept ... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          thomask, Jay C, Debby, Judge Moonbox

          ... the Hoosier State running, under the rules passed by the Republicans in Congress a while back that corridors under 750 miles were not eligible for Federal subsidy:

          State, Amtrak reach agreement on Hoosier State

          Community leaders from Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and two other cities lobbied the state to continue the service, which they contended is key in attracting businesses and young professionals to western Indiana.

          Throughout the process, INDOT said communities served by the Hoosier State would have to pay part of the $2.9 million annual operating cost that is not covered by revenues. The route costs $3.8 million to run, and generates $907,000, according to INDOT.

          Local officials, along with those from four other cities, agreed last month to foot part of the bill if the service was improved to attract more riders and generate more revenue.

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          by BruceMcF on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:35:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Daley had a project for an L line... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, kerflooey, marykk, Yoshimi

    ...to O'Hare.

    I never understood how it was supposed to work -- seems like you'd need a dedicated L line to avoid getting backed up behind the other L trains on the Blue Line that already goes out there, but he was never able to get corporate funding for it, so dropped it.

    Right now, a couple L stations in downtown Chicago, that were supposed to be built into some kind of airport transit point complete with baggage checks are shut down and empty.

    It's still possible to get from downtown to o'hare and vice versa from the L. It's a longish ride, but not horrible. I take it unless it's late at night.

    I guess opening up the current Metra station through a tunnel could be useful. Just a shame they didn't build it into their master plan, as they're currently building four runways at O'hare.

  •  Crack steam passenger service in 1925 (7+ / 0-)

    topped out at 125 mph.

    Santa Fe freights powered by 2-10-0 steam locos could do 100mph.

    South Korea has a 140mph train.

    Yes we took a wrong turn, its time for HSR, past time, get it done.

    .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:27:54 PM PST

    •  Yes, though top speed and transit speed are ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, Judge Moonbox

      ... not always the same ... in many conventional rail alignments in some parts of the country, tilt train technology to maintain speed through curves is as important to transit speed as top speed in the flat.

      What is important is, of course, not headline speed but transit time ... it is routes 2hrs and under where train service dominate air service and routes of 3hrs and less where train service is competitive with air service. So there are routes that are 4hrs-5hrs as Rapid Rail corridors that are primarily about connecting intermediate points to either end, which as bullet train HSR corridors are 3hr or less routes that pick up a much larger share of end to end transport markets.

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      by BruceMcF on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:58:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Once again (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF

    all these regional HSR plans leave KY connected only by "feeder bus lines." We NEED HSR and leaving us out plays into GOP hands.

    "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. http://www.kynect.ky.gov/ for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

    by SouthernLeveller on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 08:32:39 PM PST

    •  Kentucky isn't in ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marykk

      ... the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, but see Sunday Train: The Appalachian Hub Part 1 (30 Aug 2009) that talks about that very same hole in the various proposed regional rail corridors.

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      by BruceMcF on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 09:01:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Louisville should be in. (0+ / 0-)

      I was in Louisville and Indianapolis this past summer. I think that if we had a transportation system based on what travelers need and not what's best for the Oil Oligopoly, we would have nearly hourly trains from Chicago to Cincinnati, 3 to 5 times daily Chi to Lou'ville, as well as service from St. Louis to Cincy.
      I couldn't see any traces of the old Union Station. I do think that if a new line was built, you would need a light rail service to justify building a new bridge over the Ohio River to get rails to downtown Louisville.

      I also think that a train from Cleveland via Cincinnati, Knoxville, and Atlanta to Florida is doable, depending on how much time you lose in the mountains in southern KY and northern TN.

      Freedom's just another word for not enough to eat. --Paul Krugman's characterization of conservative attitudes.

      by Judge Moonbox on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 06:33:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Louisville / Chicago is ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... a designated official Federal HSR corridor as part of the Chicago Hub via Indianapolis.

        My Appalachia Hub included extended from Louisville to Nashville and to Lexington, among others.

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        by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 07:59:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Fascinating (0+ / 0-)

    From the inside out.  Who'd a thunk it?

    It's true that cross town traffic is really getting fierce.  Some days on the expressways there seems to be just as much traffic in the traditional "reverse commute" direction as on the main commute direction.  The intent of 2 reversible lanes on I-90 doesn't always help much.

    And a faster train between O'Hare and the Loop could work providing access is easy at O'Hare and better room for baggage is provided.  

    Right now the L is 44 minutes (for $5) to the loop with the station underground connected to the domestic terminals 1, 2 & 3.  Metra is 37 minutes (for $4.75) and the station is at a remote parking lot that connects via the people mover to the terminals.

    I don't understand why the document lists the running time for the new proposed O'Hare-Loop service at 30 minutes.  That doesn't shave much off Metra's time, especially considering a car in good traffic can make it in 22 minutes.

    It's going to be tough to add yet another train terminal close to the plane terminals.  I've seen how well it works at Frankfurt, but O'Hare is a bigger monster.  The L, Metra and people mover are all there now and without any sharing of stations among them.  I can't see it canibalizing the underground L station for a few reasons.  I'm inclined to think that a decent spot for a new station for express Loop service would be about where the current Alamo car rental biz sits.  It would be able to share a station with the people mover.

    At https://maps.google.com/...
    set to satellite mode and
    search for:   Alamo Rent A Car, O'Hare International Airport, Bessie Coleman Drive, Chicago, IL
    It was also interesting to see the plan connect to the as yet non-existent South Suburban Airport.  And so it easily solves one problem people have discussed relating to that project.

    Thanks!!

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 09:10:09 PM PST

    •  Connecting with the people mover (ATS) ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... extension is exactly what I listed above as the O'Hare "connection".

      As far as the underground line with two underground train stations that connect directly to the four terminals, if you've haven't clicked through to their proposal, their proposed O'Hare terminal stations are illustrated here ~ one for Terminal 5, one for terminals 1-3 (there is, of course, No Terminal Four! ~ someone at O'Hare obviously being a Monty Python fan).

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      by BruceMcF on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 09:32:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Somehow that sentence construction (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Yoshimi

        gave me a little trouble.  And although I downloaded the "plan" from the link, the description there on pg. 5 was a little vague.  The corresponding map (on pg 3) does show a small dotted line that I missed earlier for the ATS extension - possibly because most Chicagoans simply know it as the people mover.

        For years Chicago has promoted that Metra station as "being connected to the airport" but a lot of local people don't seem to buy that since it is so far from terminals and out on the fringe of the property.

        And I'll have to plead the lateness of the hour as well as point out some slightly sloppy mapping on that airport map.  Those hexagons - for which there are no legend definitions appear to be close to labels saying "parking".  I wasn't sure how to interpret them on the smaller map version on page 3.

        But I am deeply pessimistic about that underground rail route given that the West end of it showing how it will reconnect with the I-90 corridor is not shown.

        But I think I better hit the hay.  Thanks again for a great diary.  I'm always interested in your work.

        I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

        by Satya1 on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 11:07:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  There are two distinct phases there ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... the ATS does not presently extend to the vicinity of the Metra Station, but construction has commenced on the project that includes the extension of the ATS, so the ATS will be extending to a point not very far from the current Metra station ~ the project proposal is to shift the Metra Station so that it can be connected directly to the new people mover station.

          The proposal to build an underground tunnel to connect to underground terminal stations is an additional phase. As far as how it connects back to the I-90 rail corridor, remember that there is a North/South freight rail corridor on the northwest side that crosses the I-90 rail corridor north of O'Hare airport, so getting back to the I-90 rail corridor is not a serious challenge, given funding for the underground section.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 07:31:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  forgot lot F was part of the moderization program (0+ / 0-)

            By the looks of the conceptual drawing I found, it doesn't look like they are shifting the Metra station much if at all.

            From the drawing on page 75 of this source it seems to be in about the same place.  Perhaps it moves a few feet north or something.

            Yeah, I can see the rails on the west side now.  If I recall correctly the elgin-o'hare expressway and the western terminal proposals got "demoted" in the modernization project to "future options".  But those possible plans will need to be taken into account with the underground phase as well.

            And I suppose that if the underground phase were to progress, the metra station at the new rental car/parking facility would still get some usage for local riders.

            I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

            by Satya1 on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 09:34:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, moving the station would be about ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... having a direct (such as escalator to slidewalk) connection between the platform and the ATS station ... there may also be a larger station if it supports cross-platform transfer between the Metra and the Cross-Rail.

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              by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 12:07:02 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  As someone who has done transportation (0+ / 0-)

    feasibility studies for rail and HSR in the Chicago area I have a few issues:

    1. The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative is NOT a planning organization, it is a grassroots lobbying organization. There is a big difference.

    2. The Cross Rail Chicago proposal was designed by whom? The brocure tells me nothing.

    3. I along with my partners at an Italian transporation development company did regional feasibility studies for HSR and had many meetings with the governors in Illinois and the surrounding states to discuss possible legs between Chicago and Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee, and Chicago and St Louis. The BIGGEST obstacle was Republican governors in Indiana, Michigan, Mosouri and Wisconsin. Because of this the state of Illinois decided to invest in a leg between Chicago and East St Louis so that we could have total control of the project. But because of the limited federal stimulus, the project is limited to Enhanced Rail.

    4. There is a intermodal station already masterplanned and designed by Parsons Brinkerhoff for Union Station which will accomodate future HSR. It is quite impressive.

    5. I worked on the design for the express Blue Line Train to O'Hare and we were able to clock the train from door to door at 30 minutes. We were able to do this with timing of trips and passing lanes. The biggest problem with the Metra connection to O'Hare is that is it is tied to the very slow monorail at the airport. The Blue Line on the other hand drops you off right at the terminal. A better solution would be to put the HSR station in the terminal and this becomes the major HSR station for the Chicago region completely avoiding the city. You can always hop on the Blue Line at that point and be downtown in 30 minutes.  

    6. The current Metra Lines share tracks with the major freight lines. I think any future HSR needs to completely avoid this mess. A high priority for the city is to currently reroute frieght to avoid the morning and evening rush hours. This impacts freight movement across the united states so it definitely has the eyes of the federal goverment on the problem.

    7. I do agree that the mega region is the new way to think of economy and commutes. I know many people who commute the routes suggested by this proposal.  

    •  The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative is ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TheMomCat, priceman

      ... to quote one of their members, the Minnesota Department of Transportation:

      a cooperative, multi-agency effort that began in 1996 and involves nine Midwest states (Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin) as well as the Federal Railroad Administration.
      I do not believe I have ever heard anybody else refer to a cooperative effort of nine state agencies and the FRA as a "grassroots effort".

      You may have it confused with the Midwest HSR Association, which is a grassroots organization, who has just rolled out this proposal as their current main political advocacy push.

      2. Cross-Rail Chicago is proposed by who? As I wrote above:

      With the Cross-Rail Chicago proposal, the Midwest HSR Association is proposing to ...
      Indeed, if you got to the brochure from their website, then you were at the site of of the Midwest HSR Association, as evidence by their logo at the top of the Cross-Rail Chicago web page.

      3. That point further reinforces the Midwest HSR Association's adoption of an inside-out political strategy, doesn't it? Establishing the Cross-Rail system improves the prospects for any opportunity that may arise, with the completion of the current projects coinciding with the end of the period of "Obama vs The GOP" political gridlock on new federally funded projects.

      As far as the "limited government stimulus" being responsible for the Chicago/STL route being a Rapid Rail system, the Rapid Rail systems plans in the Midwest Regional Rail System and the Ohio Hub are justified whether or not the substantially larger funding levels required for Express HSR become available. And with the (at least partial) breakthrough in FRA passenger train buff strength regulations, building a trunk Express HSR corridor with junctions with multiple Rapid Rail corridors to complete the route becomes an even more viable design.

      4. You'll surely be aware that the through running intercity platforms included in the proposal are already included in the Union Station master plan.

      5. The Blue Line proposal appears to be just about getting to the airport, and does not appear to offer the benefits of a through-running system like the French RER or the British Cross-Rail London.

      You'll note that the proposal includes the Cross-Rail system dropping people off at the terminal, with two underground terminal stations, one for Terminals 1-3 and one for Terminal 5. The first phase involves a new Metra station that connects to the ATS, the second phase includes the direct terminal stations.

      As far as the proposal to deny HSR passengers a single seat trip to downtown Chicago, that makes no more sense than a proposal to deny the French TGV lines their access to downtown Paris. O'Hare would be a secondary transport destination demand for intercity passenger rail to Chicago in this region - downtown Chicago is the primary transport destination demand.

      However, the fact that there was at least one person involved in planning Express HSR for the region who would advocate leaving a downtown Chicago station off the HSR system underlines the political intelligence of this proposal by the Midwest HSR Association.

      6. I agree that an advantage of this proposal would be the funding of dedicated passenger track to provide required expanded capacity on existing Metra corridors. It is quite appropriate for a service like the proposed Columbus / Fort Wayne / Chicago Rapid Rail service to share secondary freight corridors, given that it looks to 5 services Chicago/Columbus, 6 Northwest Ohio / Chicago, but at the frequencies when a number of intercity services are scheduled with a Cross-Rail Express commuter rail service on a corridor also used by local commuter rail service, dedicated passenger tracks are called for.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 10:03:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oops. I conflated Midwest HSR with Midwest (0+ / 0-)

        1. Midwest HSR - grassroots lobbying group who doesn't design anything beyond cocktail napkin sketches and lobbying brochures.

        Midwest RRI - regional authority who could potentially hire someone to design something.

        2. My original point was that a grassroots lobbying organization needs more meat to their proposal if they want to be taken seriously. Who is providing their meat? Who is on their board? I had a hard time finding this information.

        3. Midwest HSR isn't suggesting anything that hadn't already been strategized by the Governor's office four years ago. The governor is focusing on local projects with a hope that eventually it might lead to interstate projects.  

        4. Yes, that was my point. It was already designed before this brochure was released.

        5. Ignore the Metra's relation to the airport. HSR needs to be completely separated from the Metra to be viable.

        6. I've been to the HSR terminals in France and Spain. Most of the NEW stations fall outside the central business district and in most cases are in industrial areas out by... (wait for it)

        the airport.

        •  6. That's because the downtown stations ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          priceman

          ... already exist. As does Chicago's Union station.

          Either/or between a downtown HSR and outer suburban HSR station makes no economic sense ~ the downtown locations collect the majority of the destination transport drivers, and the outer suburban locations are more convenient origin stations for a large part of a large urban area's population.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 12:13:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not opposed to a downtown station (0+ / 0-)

            I just think a station with little impact on the existing infrastructure (exiting freight lines already bogged down) has a better chance of success.

            Currently the only corridors downtown are owned by the freight lines. Something has to give.

        •  5. The claim is conflating ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          priceman

          ... local rail service corridors and the way that Metra presently shares track with freight ... its one thing to point out that dedicate passenger track is required, its quite another to claim that HSR access into the central Chicago area cannot use passenger track also used by Metra.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 12:17:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Metra doesn't use "passenger track" (0+ / 0-)

            until it does, I suggest an alternate means for HSR beyond tieing into a commuter line that already slows the nations freight to taking a month to get through Chicago. Slow rail needs to be tackled before we attempt to be put HSR on the same tracks.

            •  But isn't that the proposal you are ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              priceman

              ... objecting to? What do you think the $1.3b for the Loop-O'Hare Transfer is going to, if not for dedicated passenger track?

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              by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 02:03:01 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't think it is (0+ / 0-)
                Union Station to O'Hare, reconstructing Metra's "Milwaukee West" district and building a short section of new rail, initially to a station connecting to the "ATS" people mover extension to the new rental car facility, and eventually via underground stations connecting directly to the O'Hare terminals;
                I think they are only talking about moving the existing Metra station closer to the airport. Currently it isn't a great connection. This says nothing about a dedicated passenger rail on the existing leg of track.
                •  I think that when they say ... (0+ / 0-)

                  ... "reconstructing Metra's 'Milwaukee West' district", they are talking about both track upgrade and capacity upgrades.

                  Since they depict the O'Hare transfer station as on the existing rail corridor ~ basically next to the new rental car center rather than on the shuttle van pick up point ~ I doubt that it is a $1.3b project on its own.

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                  by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 03:45:52 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  But does "reconstructing" equal a dedicated (0+ / 0-)

                    passenger line? I'd like to see more meat and more due dilligence.

                    To relocate the existing Metra Station, I suspect that the extension would have to be underground because of the runway layout. This could approach $1.3B.

                    •  The underground stations ... (0+ / 0-)

                      ... that go to the terminals are Phase 2 (that is the dashed line in the layout) ... Phase 1 relocating the Metra station from the end of the parking block set to contain the new rental car facility to directly adjacent to that block, which would offer the most direct access to the ATS station on the other side via the slidewalk through the new rental car building.

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                      by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 07:46:18 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  I've just called their Executive Director ... (0+ / 0-)

                      ... and confirmed that, yes, that equals two dedicated electrified passenger tracks.

                      Whether that entails constructing dedicated passenger track or upgrading what is at present passenger/freight track and constructing dedicated freight track, either of which have been proposed for various corridors as part of the ongoing process of untangling freight and passenger operations, would be finalized in a feasibility study. Their current push is to garner sufficient political support to have that feasibility study funded.

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                      by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 09:23:46 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

        •  I'd think that going to the ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          priceman

          ... "About Us" and Board of Directors page would be the most direct route to finding out who is on Midwest HSR's board of directors. The President, Richard Harnish, co-founded the MHSRA in 1993, a member of Governor Quinn's Advisory Committee on the 220mph corridor study and the Civic Advisory Committee for the Chicago Union Station Master Plan Study. He worked in container freight as a logistics manager for APL, which the Wikipedia Machine says is the world's 7th largest container freight company.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 12:30:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The link I clicked on showed 4 elderly women (0+ / 0-)

            riding a Spanish train. I'll dig around.

            •  Did you look above the picture of the ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Yoshimi, priceman

              ... MHSRA members riding the European HSR train to the links where it says "Board of Directors", "Corporate Partners", "Donors", "Our Achievements"?

              It may be that the contempt that you seem to hold the Midwest HSR Association in as a mere grassroots lobbying group inclined you to not look very hard.

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              by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 02:06:58 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yeah, I hates them. :) (0+ / 0-)
                •  It doesn't sound like hate ... (0+ / 0-)

                  ... when you say "grassroots lobbying group who doesn't design anything beyond cocktail napkin sketches and lobbying brochures" and "The link I clicked on showed 4 elderly women riding a Spanish train" ...

                  ... it doesn't sound like hate at all, but it does sound quite a lot like contempt for the necessary and often thankless task of working on generating and organizing grassroots support for infrastructure improvement.

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                  by BruceMcF on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 03:49:14 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Actually, the belittling is a habit I formed (0+ / 0-)

                    after working with grassroots organizations (in politics and single issue) who have not done their due diligence - which is a waste of everyone's time.

                    Maybe this group has done its due dilligence and I should give them the benefit of the doubt.

                    •  Bear in mind that they are ... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Bronx59

                      ... taking a collection of projects that have been advanced over the past decade and have gone nowhere due to having other priorities of the agencies involved being pushed to the front, while being unable to attract enough interest to gain their own dedicated funding ...

                      ... and are promising to add their support behind a single system that combined those projects, so long as the project is designed in a way that benefits intercity rail as well.

                      Demanding a detailed feasibility study before they advance the project seems to be putting the cart before the horse ... in order to get the detailed feasibility study funded, a coalition of interests in support of the project is required.

                      That is, after all, how they were able to help push through the funding of a feasibility study on 220mph Express HSR rail in Illinois.

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                      by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 07:42:44 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Also, note that if those with the ... (0+ / 0-)

                      ... expertise do not participate in grassroots organizations on the grounds that they are naive about technical issues, then the grassrtoots organizations naivete on technical issues becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

                      I expect if you have experience as a transport planner, and are located somewhere in Illinois, the Midwest HSR Association would be happy to have your involvement.

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                      by BruceMcF on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 09:28:28 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

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