Illinois High Speed Rail track upgrades Watch the work being done

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I was coming home from the 2014 Illinois Renewable Energy Conference held in Normal when I recorded this video. The content is three separate videos combined into one.

From what I have seen very few if anyone has provided video of the actual work being done to upgrade track between Chicago and St Louis.

First part was recorded from back window inside Business Class while riding on Amtrak Lincoln Service southbound from Normal Illinois. You see site excavation, preparation and new track being put in place. Also shown is the Union Pacific freight train delivering rock that put us in a dead stop holding pattern for a good 30 minutes.

Second part shows all the trees that have been cut down to make room for new track. You see all the trees in stacks or mulch piles. Although this video didn’t fully capture equipment do to travel speed and angle – machines doing the work are shown. Video then shows trees that haven’t been felled yet. At least one feller-buncher is shown – the machine doing cutting of trees.

I have a concern about all these disappearing trees. Will any be replanted? I’ll skip my environmental concerns. But this is taking a good amount of wind blockage away. Now dirt from fields can easily escape. Snow can have an easier time blowing across the tracks and maybe even creating white out conditions – trees help to reduce this problem to an extent. Of course no trees around tracks would reduce maintenance. No tree trimming and a lessened chance of debris on tracks during bad weather.

Similar work has been done from just past Auburn IL to St Louis Missouri the past few months. This along with freight train dispatching issues has caused numerous delays when I have ridden Amtrak Lincoln Service. Unlike the work shown above – Amtrak gave no advance notice about delays. There were no articles in the local newspaper etc.

Amtrak did send me an email alert four days in advance of my most recent trip – alerting that delays could take place for the next few months. A recent newspaper article states these delays could continue until November 15 2014. Delays can be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. My experience was that passengers should expect much longer delays if traveling the full length from Chicago to St Louis.

My ride from Normal to Springfield Illinois the other day was easily delayed by an hour or more. Train was at full stop and sitting multiple times. So an hour trip turned into about two and half hours. It should be kept in mind that these delays are for worker and passenger safety. Freight and passenger trains also get behind schedule and stacked up in a dispatch queue do to the work – which causes even more delays.

Many of the passengers seemed surprised and aggravated by these events. I can understand this the past few months for Amtrak Lincoln Service passengers traveling either direction St Louis to or from Springfield IL. Most of that work was not announced in media and no email alerts were received – at least not by me.

When the work being done in that region delays Amtrak’s trip progress – passengers have been confused. Granted if they would just look out their window every once in awhile – it is very easy to understand what is taking place and causing the delays. Although at times it does seem like freight trains have been given priority between Springfield & St Louis and around St Louis – even when Amtrak is running on time.

I have left St Louis on Lincoln Service on time on recent trips only to be held do to incoming Amtrak or freight. This on several occasions has caused the train to be 20 minutes late when it left at it’s scheduled time.

Last part of my video shows major track work being done on the north side of Springfield Illinois. Yes track upgrades are taking place in Springfield!! Location of the work shown is rail yard near the Illinois State Fairgrounds and a bit past that area coming into town. The lady seated in front of me complained about all the workers standing around. Guess she had the mindset that union workers or those working on State Federal projects rest more than work. Similar to the “work safe” method used in Amtrak’s Chicago railyard = or should I say alleged work method that I have read about.

I’ve heard many people complain – even loyal Amtrak customers about the amount of progress in regards to Illinois “High Speed” Rail track upgrades – should be called higher speed – not really high speed by international standards – but a start if we can move on from this point in the next few years. Hopefully seeing more work being done – more track being laid will quiet some of the doubters and complainers.

For the next year or so Amtrak passengers will continue to have growing pains. While construction continues – delays will be common and patience will be tested. Hopefully this does not effect the increasing ridership numbers. Lets also hope that once the project is completed it delivers on it’s promises.

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

Illinois high speed rail track upgrades outside Auburn Illinois

Watch the video below to learn even more about Illinois High Speed Rail track upgrades. Also learn more about Amtrak service and equipment upgrades that are scheduled to be introduced over the next few years.

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

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My articles / videos related to Midwest High Speed Rail Association

University of Illinois High-Speed Rail Study Mohd Rapik Saat, Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Chicago or Urbana-Champaign covered the recent University of Illinois High-Speed Rail Study – 220-mph high-speed rail (HSR) passenger service between Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, Indianapolis and beyond.

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Midwest High Speed Rail Association

“Preference Over Freight Transportation. – Except in an emergency, intercity and commuter rail passenger transportation provided by or for Amtrak has preference over freight transportation in using a rail line, junction, or crossing unless the Board orders otherwise under this subsection.”

“Accelerated Speeds. – If a rail carrier refuses to allow accelerated speeds on trains operated by or for Amtrak, Amtrak may apply to the Board for an order requiring the carrier to allow the accelerated speeds.”

Source: Amtrak Priority Preference Over Freight Transportation law

National Association of Railroad Passengers ( NARP )

Passenger Rail Myths & Facts National Association of Railroad Passengers

By law, passenger trains have priority over freight traffic.

But the freight railroads sued to block the 2008 law that required Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration to jointly set performance standards for Amtrak. The freight lines argued the law unconstitutionally delegated legislative power to Amtrak, a private corporation.

Source: Amtrak’s on-time performance runs off the rails

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“the very strong 88% cost recovery that Amtrak boasted in FY 2013. This means that only 12% of Amtrak’s operational costs were subsidized, which is extremely favorable to every other domestic mass transit system, not to mention the abysmal 51% cost recovery that the broken financing model for our highway system is producing. So, it begs the question: if Amtrak can be considered “heavily subsidized,” what superlative could adequately encompass the evidently egregious amount of subsidy that other elements of our transportation system consume?”

Source: Washington Post Says Amtrak Should Solve On Time Performance Issues by Cutting Service; NARP Responds

“Boardman, addressing the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, said that in fiscal year 2012, ending Sept. 30, 2012, the federal government covered just 12% of Amtrak’s operating costs, while Amtrak generated 88% with ticket sales and other revenue.”

Source: Amtrak touts strong cost-recovery ratio

2014 Illinois Renewable Energy Conference

Letter: Rail improvements a win-win

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Felling is the process of downing individual trees, an element of the task of logging.

A feller-buncher is a motorized vehicle with an attachment which rapidly cuts and gathers several trees in the process of felling them.

Milestone of Major High-Speed Rail Track Work Between Chicago and St. Louis Last Segment of Track is Replaced


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