In 2012, high speed rail was touted to save travelers between Chicago and St. Louis an hour of travel time thereby inducing travelers to choose Amtrak over vehicle travel on I-55 thereby reducing congestion and vehicle pollution. The local, state, and federal government leaders justified the $2 billion expenditure on upgrading the line through Normal by calling it high speed rail to gain taxpayer support for the plan.
However, the “high speed Amtrak” trip time between Chicago and St. Louis travel time is the same as driving. Spending $2 billion on I-55 improvements would have reduced travel time, congestion, and pollution more than spending it on the in the name only high speed rail.
High speed rail’s failure to attain real high speed was baked into the plan. 1. The federal funding did not include double track the entire route that is necessary for high speed trains to pass slower freight trains and trains traveling in the opposite direction. 2. The project failed to include funding of positive train control that is an expensive electronic safety system that is required by the federal government to be operational before trains attain high speed. 3. The old stations in small towns were rebuilt thereby retaining frequent stops that increase travel time considerably.
Ron Ulmer, Normal
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