Joseph Shacter director of public and intermodal transportation for IDOT Midwest High Speed Rail Association 2014 Spring Meeting

First off I apologize again for the less than quality audio. No microphones were in use and I forgot to make a settings change in my video camera to compensate for that problem. Anyone who has been unable or put off attending the public meetings on high speed rail in Illinois – can learn a lot from watching this video.

I may be wrong – but Joe Shacter is most likely the man who was sitting at the bar in our hotel having dinner. Even though he clearly overheard the conversation with my girlfriend – at no time did he interject. Actually he got up and left rather quickly after dinner. This is unfortunate because we could have had a very good debate on why I was right. Granted from the look he gave me I doubt he would agree with me on that.

This recording in my opinion backs up my thoughts. Illinois is being a bit to greedy and not playing well with it’s neighboring partners – mainly Missouri. I’ll go into more details in a later article. But my basic point is – it is never good to make a business partner feel like they are getting less than the other partner. The continued focus on Chicago by Illinois and others as being the absolute rail hub for the Central part of the United States is NOT a good idea. You never want all your eggs in one basket. This past Winter ( and in years past ) showed why that is never a smart move.

Part of the problem with passenger rail in the United States is the closed minded viewpoints and refusal to embrace change or new ideas – even by those who claim to be passenger rail advocates. In my opinion this has been detrimental to achieving real change. It also doesn’t help when you have different visions among passenger rail fans. Some don’t even want high speed rail – they prefer the old slow moving take your time to get there experience. I’m all for nostalgia – but that isn’t what the United States needs. We are 50 years behind Japan and a few decades behind many other countries in regards to passenger rail – we are long overdue to get something accomplished.

I had to bite my tongue a few times during this presentation. The fact that he stated he did not know medical services ( oh I’m sorry the “medical district” ) was growing in Springfield Illinois boggles my mind. He clearly stated it was hard to get to the medical district do to trains = not exactly true. The proposed move to 10th street corridor is more about big business – has nothing to do with quality of life or improving traffic flow etc. I’ve ranted and raved about this many times the past few years. Of course it is falling on deaf ears that could care less. What annoyed me the most is that since this is a representative from the Illinois Department of Transportation – attendees take this person at their word and feel they must be all knowing. If your not from this area you don’t know any better.

A move to 10th street in Springfield Illinois will not reduce noise. Trains currently on 10th can easily be heard all over downtown and very easily in the 2 hotels closest to that location. Moving all train traffic will not improve safety unless some very serious upgrades are done. Which are planned – but I still have concerns routing that much traffic right passed a high school. Several deaths have taken place on the tracks by the school over the years. Guess it is easy to forget these things unless you knew someone who was killed there. Keep in mind a young woman was killed this year on the 10th street tracks closer to downtown. The links I provided below to articles that cover these events – show one thing = there are a lot more deaths occurring on 10th street tracks than 3rd street.

The move to 10th street will uproot many people. Many who are not owners but renters. These people may have trouble finding new homes. A 10th street move would destroy pieces of history – one of which Illinois taxpayers paid a ton of money towards making inhabitable for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. There is irony in that = EPA located in a building that originally wasn’t fit for people to be in safely. A baseball stadium will have to be razed. The list goes on.

Currently you can see what will take place by looking at the Springfield Medical District. Homes, businesses and churches have all been bought and torn down. There are many empty lots where homes used to stand. Some have been redeveloped – while others have become parking lots or sit empty. No one seems to care if the people who weren’t homeowners now have places to live. Many lower income to middle class people live in this area. A good portion are renters. Guess no one cares that in the name of someones idea of progress – these people are living on the streets = price of progress. At least one family recently was given an “offer they couldn’t refuse” = basically threatened with all kinds of legal action if they didn’t sell out and move. More of this will take place when the 10th street project starts to take shape.

Even though Union Pacific is supposed to be compensated for moving to 10th street off of tracks they own on 3rd. I just don’t see any of this not ending up in lawsuits from homeowners and Union Pacific. Very little if anything progresses in Springfield without a lawsuit.

The Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association for decades has taken great steps to revitalize their neighborhood. Crime and poverty have been on their doorstep or nearby for decades. What they aren’t saving is being torn down in the name of progress by others. Granted some of the properties are probably long overdue for the wrecking ball. No one seems to feel the association is gentrifying the area. Once these homes are refurbished the people who live in that community can’t afford them. Again it seems like very few people care about the people. It’s all about business. I’m all for progress – but at what cost?

Let my long winded self move on. The Joliet Illinois new station project has broken ground. Long overdue and yes the original Joliet Union Station will be preserved – not that is being taken great care of right now. The bathrooms are disgusting never cleaned. Other areas could use serious maintenance. January 2011 outside work was done – new pavers put down. But you still don’t have any protection from the elements when boarding Amtrak – just like in St Louis, Springfield Illinois and many other stations. Why you have outside boarding areas with no passenger cover is beyond me. Current operating hours at the Amtrak waiting room in Joliet are ridiculous. If boarding a late train you won’t have the waiting room as an option – it is closed. Customer service at this station is very hit and miss. I’ve had a few bad experiences there. A new terminal – if it turns out like Normal Illinois or better is very welcomed. Especially if operating hours are expanded.

The most interesting thing out of this presentation was to find out that new rolling stock ( train equipment ) that is to be built in Rochelle Illinois is not currently being manufactured yet. The person who asked the question got it right – there have been conflicting reports coming from traditional media sources on this topic. There may be a lawsuit over the new locomotive engines ordered. Caterpillar ( Electro-Motive Diesel a subsidiary ) has some issues with the bidding process and may sue. So again we could have lawsuits holding up progress.

As things stand now it looks like we won’t seen new locomotives and passenger compartments until 2017. That is the same year safety upgrades and track work is scheduled to end. This all counts on nothing going wrong or holding up the process. Which is very unlikely to happen. So unfortunately we’ll probably be lucky to see new rolling stock and completed rail work by 2018. Looking at a 2 year wait at best, 3 years or longer at worst. Either way slow progress and currently not much to show for it.

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