I’ll start off with a couple of disclaimers. The first being that we aren’t really talking about high speed rail in Illinois. What we are talking about is upgrading the current tracks so that trains including Amtrak passenger service can run at 1960 speeds. The second disclaimer would be that we don’t really know if high speed rail will kill squirrels. But Hanson Professional Services is going to study this and get back to us.
What I’m talking about is the high speed rail study that is being conducted locally. Franklin’s ground squirrel is considered endangered so state law requires they be protected. I have no problem with that. But I’m confused as to why this has now become a concern in regards to rail traffic. Common sense would dictate that these squirrels could be in harms way now. So I’m not sure how “high speed rail” would make the situation worse. If a squirrel gets hit by a train going 20 miles an hour it’s not going to win. I’m not comprehending why now their is concern for these creatures when no cared one way or the other before.
Honestly the more I think about the rail study the more I wonder why we need it. From what I have seen Springfield seems to be the only community along this rail line that is getting up in arms. I understand a concern for safety. I’m more than understanding in regards to noise issues. I also understand parts of the community not wanting to be cut off. No one wants the city to look like a war zone because of the railroad. So I guess this means you have to hire an engineering firm, pay them good money and then have more heated debate about the evils of progress?
What really changes with this track upgrade? We know that more freight trains are coming. Anyone who can read knows that other communities have embraced this change. Bloomington Normal is building a new transportation center right next to the tracks. Joliet claims they will do much needed updates to their Amtrak commuter station. I can tell you from first hand experience from my recent visit that it’s less than ideal now for customers. I’m left to wonder what makes Springfield so different than these other communities. Why has there been less uproar or none at all outside of Springfield?
These much debated tracks run through city centers, industrial areas, farmland and many wooded areas. I’d have to assume that the Franklin’s ground squirrel is in just as much danger on the tracks outside of Springfield. If a true danger even exist. Most of us know if an animal, human or vehicle decides to play on the tracks and a train comes it’s going to be a bad day for everyone but the train. All of this is a known fact at current speeds.
I understand that with increased speed risk factors rise. Even when those speeds will only be 25 to 30 miles an hour faster. But when I’ve ridden Amtrak over the years and just last month we never went through towns at full speed. Everyone in our community seems so concerned about speeds. When the real concern should be the number of freight trains that will be coming. The one part of the equation that we know for sure is that Union Pacific is bringing more freight traffic through our community.
We have seen the concern for wild life stop projects in the past and present. I’m not against making sure that we reduce our impact on our surroundings. But I think we all know that sometimes it’s not about the creatures but about an agenda. Granted we have seen environmental groups fighting each other over solar and wind projects. Several alternative energy developments have been held up do to concerns over endanger species or habitat.
No matter what this study finds the trains are coming. The track has been in operation for decades. That track is owned by a private company that pretty much has a license to do what they want on the property. My concern is that in the end the only thing being accomplished is destroying passenger rail service in Central Illinois. Then again the track below and above us will be upgraded so I’m not sure how we’d stop Amtrak from servicing our community.
Maybe special interest groups who are against rail expansion will just turn all this into a save the Franklin’s ground squirrels campaign. Of course you have never seen anyone get up in arms about the many cats, dogs and other wild life killed by freight trains & Amtrak at current speeds. So to me any “concern” would be pretty hypocritical.