Construction on Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail in progress, to finish by 2014

| News Editor

An inside Acela Express car is seen Washington, D.C., July 11, 2011. Amtrak has struggled for survival nearly every year since its first trains rolled out on May 1, 1971.Olivier Douliery | Abaca Press | MCT

An inside Acela Express car is seen Washington, D.C., July 11, 2011. Amtrak has struggled for survival nearly every year since its first trains rolled out on May 1, 1971.

A new high-speed train connecting St. Louis and Chicago will provide students with an alternative way to travel.

The railroad, which is currently under construction, should be complete sometime in 2014, according to officials involved in the project.

Planners said the project is especially significant for Washington University students, as a large portion of them call Chicago and its surrounding areas home.

They hope the train, which should travel at a maximum of 110 miles per hour, will help promote cooperation between the two cities.

In June 2009, following President Barack Obama’s call for improved high-speed rail travel nationwide, the Federal Railroad Administration launched the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In January of the following year, Illinois was chosen as one of the states that would benefit from the project, and was allocated $1.2 billion in federal funding to introduce high-speed rail service by 2014.

Students have been a focus of the planning process.

“Students are the one of the important markets we want to reach with this project,” said Miriam Gutierrez, section chief of Rail Program Planning at the Illinois Department of Transportation. “This generation is big on trains, and there will be Amtrak student discounts.”

Gutierrez said that the project managers are currently working out ticket prices that are reasonable but will still help pay for new features the trains will offer passengers, such as Wi-Fi access and improved food services.

“Right now we’re trying to figure out how much we can raise ticket prices so that we won’t lose ridership,” Gutierrez said. “But they won’t go up super high, just because it’s so easy to jump on a plane instead.”

Washington University students who live in the Chicago area are currently faced with the decision between a 60-minute flight and a 5 1/2 hour train ride.

Sophomore Neha Nair said the high-speed rail will make traveling between school and home easier for her.

“I would definitely use the train for busy times like Thanksgiving” Nair said. “In order to get a reasonably priced flight, you have to book it really far in advance, which can be difficult to do early in the semester.”

“If I didn’t have my car and the tickets were cheap enough, I’d definitely take the train, especially since I’d be able to avoid the airport hassle” junior Claire Chaney said.

Gutierrez added that the project managers have to take the environmental impacts of the construction into account. The Illinois Department of Transportation worked with the Federal Railroad Administration to submit an Environmental Impact Statement for the project. Public meetings will be held over the remainder of the year to review the environmental clearance document and ensure that it will be environmentally safe to build a second railroad track through the St. Louis-Chicago corridor.

  • gary

    It is NOT about moving people, that’s the cover up….. It is about moving goods…. this is just a big ( heres what we are giving you story ) to get the small city mayors to go along with mile long trains coming through their town at all hours of the day and nite, without opposition WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!! Warren Buffet owns most of this and he is getting free upgrades.

  • Lulu

    Why does it take 5 and half hours to go from St. Louis to Chicago on a train going 110 mph and only 5 hours to go from St. Louis to Chicago driving on the interstate going 55 mph? Something doesn’t seem right here…

    Does the train make a bunch of stops along the way? (This article should have answered that question).

    • Matt H.

      Yeah, the train stops in a bunch small towns and a few of decent size, such as Springfield, Normal and Joliet.

    • David Marcus

      Good question. Part of it is unclear from the article…it takes 5.5 hours *now* on the train. The improvements will reduce that to 4.5 hours. The time is not faster because of the stops plus the fact that 110 mph is the top speed, not the average speed.

  • Peter

    The Metroliner service between Washington DC and NYC traveled up to 125mph––and that was in 1969! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budd_Metroliner)

    While it’s nice to see some reinvestment in the train corridor between St. Louis and Chicago, the Illinois DOT is knowingly misusing the term “high-speed rail” in order to gain funding and win public support/interest when in reality this project is best described as “track improvement”.

    But again I will put my cynicism aside to reiterate my appreciation that some focus is being brought back to rail service. Trains are the most comfortable form of travel, the most efficient mechanically (metal wheels on metal track= low friction), and far more convenient than air travel due to its offer of downtown-to-downtown service.

  • http://Hide!!!Thelibertariansarehere! Karl

    What is it about libertarians that make them unable to see the value in public projects (even though they have been the beneficiaries of public expenditures their whole lives)? The reification of selfishness as “freedom” and the frothing at the mouth over any public works is ridiculous. Wake up! Not all human endeavors are best motivated by profit..

  • CHESTER PROUDFOOT

    Why the naysayers? I’m truly convinced that there are people who are DREAM KILLERS!!! DO NOT pay attention to them, because they always give in to the old way of doing things. HSR, if done practically and incrementally will succeed, especially within the most densely populated areas. US RailCar will be the best new set of livery to place on this Chicago Hub Line. IT CAN BE DONE! PERIOD!!!

    • Publius

      If this project is such a “dream,” why don’t private individuals fund it? Why is it automatically accepted that we need to use force and coercion (a.k.a. government) in order to steal people’s money to fund these projects? If there is a legitimate demand for these services, they will arise naturally, without having to resort to legalized plunder.

      • Chicagoan

        How do you explain the cost of building and maintaining highways, roads, airports, and bridges? Are these private? No, of course not. Then why must trains be funded privately? I don’t understand, why the double standard here?

        • New Yorker

          Actually it is as Railroads are not a public good, you have to buy a ticket and it is exclusionary, like Airline travel. Roads and highways are not all tolled and not necessarily exclusionary like buying tickets for a plane or trane ride.

  • DylanH

    It’s about time we obtain this Much need mode of transportation. Money well spent, considering the rest of the modern world has this technology. We are the greatest nation in the world with the poorest infrastructure. Electrified High-speed rail is the way of the future. Now we need to get the other states involved

    • Publius

      I fail to see how the United States being “the greatest nation in the world” means we need to waste vast sums of money on a special interest project.

  • Spanky

    High speed rail is a scam, on a scale larger than the ethanol subsidy scam of the last 15 years.

    We can’t afford existing local and long-haul passenger rail – so how are we going to afford something for which there is even less demand?

    HSR is merely a way to transfer tax payer dollars to political contributors.

    • SA12

      Using your arguments, I fail to understand how “we” can also “afford” interstate highways, airports, seaports, utility lines, satellites, and communication. These are public infrastructure projects that serve a (not fiscally) valuable service. At least Amtrak does collect a sizeable portion of revenue to cover costs, and ridership has increased substantially during the last two years.

      • New Yorker

        The railroad improvement projects are not necessarily “Public” projects as the lines are usually owned by the privately run freight railroads, so an argument can be made that the project will benefit the private owners at the expense of other competitors ( rival freight railroads). Also please do not use MTA or Septa as those entities ARE publicly run and NOT intercity like Amtrak and at least in the MTA’s case in New York, not run very well by the State. The more relevant comparison are the airlines as they ARE private entities benefitting from subisidies for their operational expenses as is Amtrak; the airlines as well as Amtrak do have stock holders. Interstate Highways are not a business in the truest sense, they are a public good like education and law enforcement; not designed to make a profit like airlines and even Amtrak. The argument comparing highways and railroads, though competing modes of transportation, is ironically an apples to orange comparison for that reason.

  • apple

    this entire project is worthless. they are essentially repairing very old rails and updating them to basic standards, just putting a spin on it so it sounds high tech and a great benefit to everyone. the top speed of 110 sounds nice (and is), but what they won’t tell you is the average speed of travel. the train will still have to slow down frequently as the rails change with the land and most are not very straight in our country. I bet average speed will be closer to 50 or 60, meaning you could still drive in less time.

    • duh

      No, an average of 50-60 is what it is CURRENTLY. Given that they’re improving it, presumably it will be at least a little bit faster.

      • New Yorker

        The train travel speeds will increase but not to TRUE high speed which in the US is currently in excess of 124 mph. The State of Illinois would need to put up catenary wires(not without U.P’s permission) to achieve that! I think the Freights will gravitate towards electrification down the road, just not now.

  • Publius

    Where exactly does Art. I, Sec. 8, authorize Congress to appropriate funds for a high speed rail system?

    –Publius

    • dkenali

      Clauses 3 and 18

      • Steve Howerton

        See also McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819).

      • Publius

        At the framing of the Constitution, the word “regulate” meant “to make regular,” i.e., remove all the irregularities caused under the Articles of Confederation with states enacting tariffs on other states’ goods, etc. It was meant to allow the Congress to micromanage every aspect of life.

        And if the Commerce Clause combined with the Necessary and Proper Clause means that Congress has a unlimited reservoir of power, what was the point of enumerating eighteen specific powers and adding the Tenth Amendment?

        –Publius

        • Publius

          Whoops. There’s an embarrassing typo in the second sentence. What I meant to say is the following:

          [The Commerce Clause] was NEVER meant to allow the Congress to micromanage every aspect of life.

        • dkenali

          Not sure where you found that definition of “regulate”, can you provide a source? I couldn’t find anything similar in any contemporary sources. In fact, the only definition I did find was in Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary, which gives two definitions: “to adjust by rule or measure” and “to direct”. You can check it out here: http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=8802

          You should also take a look at the definition of “Commerce” (at http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=8797). Johnson gives the definition of “Intercourse; exchange of one thing for another; interchange of any thing; trade; traffick”

          Given the two 18th century definitions above, it seems clear to me that a rail line running between two major commercial centers in two different states is exactly circumstance the Commerce Clause was intended to address.

          The enumerated powers declare WHICH areas Congress is supposed to address but do not provide a mechanism for HOW it is supposed to do it. The Necessary and Proper clause provides that mechanism by giving Congress the power to make whatever laws are needed to implement those powers. The only limitations to this power that are listed in this clause are that the laws be both necessary and proper and needed to implement the enumerated powers. There are other limitations on Congressional power elsewhere in the Constitution, but not here.

          The 10th Amendment does not apply here for the following two reasons:

          1. Because the regulation of interstate commerce is one of the enumerated powers (Art 1, Sec 8, Cl 3) specifically delegated to Congress. An interstate rail line is manifestly interstate commerce, so it is covered by the Commerce Clause.

          2. Because the Necessary and Proper Clause (Art 1, Sec 8, Cl 18) gives Congress the authority to make all laws needed for the execution of the enumerated powers.

          We can argue about whether or not this high speed rail line is a good idea, or if it’s a good use of tax dollars, but I think it’s clear that it is well within Congress’ authority to pass a law allocating federal funding for it.

          I think I’ve fully answered Publius original question of “Where exactly does Art. I, Sec. 8, authorize Congress to appropriate funds for a high speed rail system?”. As for what the Commerce Clause was “meant” to do, well, we can argue that forever. I am only pointing out what it actually does do as it pertains to this particular issue.