Chicago Hub Network: Wikis

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Chicago Hub Network high-speed rail corridor, as designated by the Federal Railroad Administration

The Chicago Hub Network is a collection of proposed high-speed rail lines in the Midwestern United States including 3,000 miles (5,000 km) of track. Since the 1990s, there have been multiple proposals to improve the links Chicago, Illinois with major destinations including Indianapolis, Indiana, Detroit, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio, Kansas City, Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, Cincinnati, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition, lines would connect through to major cities in Canada. Eastern routes would blend into the Ohio Hub network. In addition to providing better connections between Midwestern cities, the projects are intended to reduce or eliminate the subsidies that American passenger train routes currently require.

If implemented, the plans could return Chicago to a status it had in the 1930s and 1940s, when some of the fastest trains in the world like the Twin Cities 400 and Hiawatha were based in the city. Chicago has remained a major hub for Amtrak, with 15 lines terminating at Chicago Union Station. Most existing passenger trains in the region only operate at speeds of about 55 to 80 miles per hour (89 to 129 km/h), although a few go faster. The various plans have suggested speeds ranging from 110 to 220 miles per hour (180 to 350 km/h) for the core routes, as well as improved speeds for secondary routes.

Contents

Midwest Regional Rail Initiative

In 2004, the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative plan was released, focusing on upgrading existing Amtrak routes. The plan had been in development since 1996, led by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Trains would travel at about 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) on the primary routes, but 80 to 90 mph (130 to 140 km/h) on secondary lines. Existing trains run at speeds of about 55 to 80 mph (89 to 129 km/h). Raising the speed would significantly reduce trip times. A trip between Milwaukee and Chicago would be reduced from about 90 minutes to just over an hour. The trip from the Twin Cities to Chicago would drop from 8 hours to 5½ hours. Travelers between Chicago and Cincinnati would see the biggest gains, cutting travel time in half to just 4 hours.

If implemented, planners would expect 13.6 million annual riders by the year 2025. The frequency of train trips would also be increased: areas that currently only see one train in each direction every day would be upgraded to four or six trips each way.

The total investment required for the system, paying for infrastructure as well as rolling stock, is estimated at $7.7 billion in 2002 dollars. $1.1 billion of that would go toward purchasing 63 new train sets. Current plans call for phased construction taking about a decade.

This plan is expected to use diesel-powered trains, which is one reason for the relatively low top speed in comparison to high-speed lines in Europe and elsewhere. The practical limit for diesel-powered train service is about 125 mph (201 km/h). Higher speeds require electrification, which can double the cost of building a rail line, though trains on such lines benefit from lower fuel costs.

2009 Midwest High Speed Rail Association proposal

For 2009, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA) and other organizations requested new studies of possible rail routes in the Midwest, this time with 220 miles per hour (350 km/h) service as the goal. These routes were identified:[1]

  • Chicago–Milwaukee–Madison–Rochester–Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Chicago–Champaign–Springfield–St. Louis
  • Chicago–Gary–Lafayette–Indianapolis–Cincinnati
    • Cincinatti–Dayton–Columbus–Cleveland
  • Chicago–Gary–Fort Wayne–Toledo–Detroit
  • Chicago–Gary–Fort Wayne–Toledo–Cleveland
    • Cleveland–Pittsburgh

The MHSRA funded a study of the link from Chicago to St. Louis[2], while the Southeast Minnesota Rail Alliance funded a study of the route to Minneapolis/St. Paul—the third in a series previously funded by the Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota Departments of Transportation.[3][4][5]

2009 SNCF proposal

In late 2009, the French national rail company SNCF released studies of several rail corridors in the United States in California, Florida, Texas, and the Midwest.[6] France and neighboring Spain have population distributions similar to that in the Midwest, so their experiences with TGV trains and other high-speed systems could conceivably be duplicated in the U.S. The following routes were identified for a first phase of implementation:

  • Chicago–Milwaukee–Madison–Eau Claire–Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Chicago–Bloomington/Normal–Springfield–St. Louis
  • Chicago–Gary–Lafayette–Indianapolis–Cincinnati
  • Chicago–Gary–Fort Wayne–Toledo–Detroit
  • Chicago–Gary–Fort Wayne–Toledo–Cleveland

These routes were designed to allow them to overlay the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative plan. Like the MHSRA plan, the SNCF core routes would operate at up to 220 mph. The total cost was projected at $68.5 billion in 2009 dollars, but only 54% was projected to need public financing, and the public funds could be recovered from revenues in about 15 years.

Upgrades underway

Some construction has begun in Illinois and Michigan, primarily as testbeds for the upgraded signaling and control systems required for higher speed operation. In Michigan, this work has already resulted in increased service speeds for Amtrak's Wolverine service. However, similar work on the Chicago – Saint Louis line in Illinois has been met with considerable technical difficulties.[7]

In September 2008 the federal government provided $297,000 to fund a study of the plan; Amtrak and state governments matched these funds for a total of $594,000. Planners anticipate 13.6 million riders over the entire network by the year 2025.[8]

The Chicago to Milwaukee Hiawatha Service is planned to be expanded to Madison, Wisconsin. In 2009, the Spanish manufacturer Talgo agreed to open a plant in Wisconsin in order to build 110-mph trains for the Hiawatha route and other improved corridors.[9]

See also

References

External links

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