TRT-909 Track Renewal Train High Speed Rail construction Chatham IL May 20 2012

On our way out of town last weekend we forgot about high speed rail construction starting back up here in Chatham IL. I thought the work in our area had been completed. For some reason I thought any work that was left would be taking place North of Springfield IL.

I’d seen at least one article in the local newspaper stating that this project was starting up again. We had seen the buses at the Springfield Amtrak station – so we knew workers were somewhere along the St Louis to Chicago route.

For some reason we both blanked on the fact that work was taking place. Even though a few nights before we had seen the machines and flaggers at the same intersection in the video. But we were running late and in a hurry so it wasn’t a part of our thought process at that time.

It didn’t matter that the road was being blocked by the TRT-909 Track Renewal Train. We could have taken several different routes to get started towards our destination. In Chatham – Plummer Boulevard has an underpass – making it easy to avoid the occasionally blocked intersection during track work. If need be – a quick trip down Route 4 to Auburn might be a solution. Track work is also being done on that portion of track with flaggers at the main railroad crossing. If you time it right that might be an avoidance option – depending on where you are heading.

Nice to see an American Made piece of equipment being put to use by American workers. Unfortunately in the parking lot it looked like a lot of out of State license plates for the workers. I’m not sure how many Illinois citizens ( if any ) are working on this job. That being said these workers have to sleep, eat and buy products somewhere while in our area. That should mean sales for local businesses. Looking at the TRT-909 – it looks as if there might be a car that offers sleeping quarters. So maybe local hotels / motels aren’t getting booked rooms from the rail crews.

I had thought all the concrete rail ties had previously been installed during the last construction segment. From the presence of the TRT-909 and all the concrete ties – I’d say I was wrong. Could have sworn I had pictures of updated track in the Auburn area that had those ties after the last refurb phase.

Even after all the hard work of these rail crews the United States will still be lagging decades behind other countries in regards to high speed passenger rail. All I ever seem to hear is people complain about how much they hate airports, airline fees and the lack of a quality customer experience when flying. Yet none of these people seem to realize in many nations around the world passenger rail offers an awesome alternative that is competitive.

Although Amtrak speeds for this route will be improved after the rail upgrade. These speeds are nowhere near what many other passenger rail services offer. Some countries have offered “true” high speed rail for many decades. While the United States has continued to be comfortable not being a technology leader in passenger rail.

The City of Springfield IL seems to exemplify this mentality. Instead of embracing this high speed rail upgrade. The city has done nothing but moan, groan, complain and find every way possible to badmouth this change. When money was available to create jobs and build facilities Springfield didn’t get in line. Instead the majority of those in power just found ways to complain.

In contrast – just up the road a bit North of Springfield – the City of Normal took full advantage of TIGER fund grants and when approved put those funds to use. This created several years of construction jobs and a nice multi story facility to serve various forms of public transportation.

Even if the City of Springfield, rich business people and a few special interest groups get exactly what they want – there will still be a multitude of problems. Rail traffic will be sent to an intersection were train deaths have occurred over the years. This same intersection is a very congested clog for traffic flow in that part of town. You are sending large amounts of trains onto tracks located not far from a local high school. This means you have less experienced drivers around trains that aren’t friendly to those who make mistakes.

Everyone also seems more worried about downtown than the fact that a baseball stadium that was been a part of Springfield for decades may have to be torn down. No mention is ever made of what will happen to the semi professional team that plays there. Not to mention the many school teams that occasionally use that facility.

From what I’ve read in the past – portions of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency building may have to be torn down to accommodate the wishes of Springfield’s elite. Once again no mention is made of the millions of tax dollars that were spent to get this building inhabitable for state workers. If torn down all that tax money was one big waste. Looking at that area I’m not sure why that building or portions of it would be affected.

After it’s all said and done it’s highly unlike Union Pacific will move it’s freight traffic to a line it doesn’t own. So the concerns about excessive rail freight causing traffic congestion, damage to historic buildings, harming medical equipment and causing general havoc won’t be addressed. What will probably happen is the city will screw Amtrak service up in some way. Basically killing a form of transportation that brings visitors and tourist dollars to our community. All the while Union Pacific will still be running more freight trains down the line they own.

The Springfield fantasy – that “when” all rail traffic is moved to the 10th street corridor a transportation center will be built – like the one in Normal IL. That is just pure fantasy – the government funds for such a build have long ago been spent or at least allocated. The reality is – funding for these type of projects has dried up for the near future. Basically that ship has sailed and the opportunity has been missed.

In the end no matter the result – no matter which plan gets chosen. The only people who will end up getting screwed the most will be the poor and middle class citizens who live in these parts of town. The fact is more trains are coming to one part of town or the other. Those in power and with money are selling their plan like there are no downsides. But none of these people live anywhere near those who will be most affected.

Analyzing a situation to make the right choice is always good. But there comes a point where this can become indecision or look like you are dragging your feet. No other Illinois communities seem to have the “issues” “problems” that Springfield claims to have in regards to “high speed” rail. Many have embraced this change, taken monies to improve their communities. Springfield has just continued to complain and not followed the others. Aggravating that the Capital City of Illinois isn’t leading by example.

For all the complaining about wanting and needing jobs – it sure seems to me like a lot is being done to sabotage projects that could create that situation. Or least help keep people who are currently employed working.

In the video you can see the Chatham Railroad Museum. It was actually open the day I filmed the TRT-909 Track Renewal Train. Unfortunately our schedule that day didn’t allow me to venture inside to explore things. I’ve been wanting to see the inside of this museum and the Great Western Depot in Springfield IL for a long time now. Like many things just never seem to get around to it.

I’d really like to see a stand alone Amtrak station in Chatham IL. Maybe located near the Chatham Railroad Museum. Many smaller communities along the Chicago to St Louis route have small stations. These buildings have E-ticket machines and Amtrak trains only stop when passengers are known to be there. When these locations have no riders they are skipped over. I think Chatham has grown large enough that such a facility would be a benefit to the community. I’m sure Amtrak would state this affects travel time and riders can just drive to the Springfield station.

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