Ambitious restoration and transformation in the Chicago area

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I think that we should probably keep the NICTD and CN plans slightly separate in our minds for the moment. I'm hopeful for the CN routing since that would be quite practical (the new tracks into the CUS approach especially).

IIRC the Munster extension will be alongside existing freight (although, after being out that way last week, it seems like there was no track at all where I thought the route was - a rail trail, but I don't know Munster that well).
 
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More on funding for Chicago Union Station Access Project...

"The plan was presented as “The Chicago Union Station Access Project,” even though many aspects address how Amtrak trains enter the Windy City from the south and east."

Gee, that sounds like Union Station access to me. ;)
 

jis

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I think that we should probably keep the NICTD and CN plans slightly separate in our minds for the moment. I'm hopeful for the CN routing since that would be quite practical (the new tracks into the CUS approach especially).

IIRC the Munster extension will be alongside existing freight (although, after being out that way last week, it seems like there was no track at all where I thought the route was - a rail trail, but I don't know Munster that well).
At Munster (by where the proposed NICT service will terminate, there better be at least one freight track since the Cardinal runs on it today! It just uses a different more convoluted routing to get to it.
 
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There actually isn't a track in places - further north, at Ridge, there are no crossings! So we were both right, yay!

Here's the crossing @ Ridge and Manor which I was thinking of - looks like the Cardinal joins the route with active tracks further south.

1657305392390.png
 

MikefromCrete

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The site in the picture is the former Monon Railroad right of way that NICTD will use to build the West Lake Corridor. It will end on the north side of Dyer, just a bit north of the present CSX route used by the Cardinal and the Dyer Amtrak station. A short section of track would be needed to connect the NICTD with CSX.
 

jis

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There actually isn't a track in places - further north, at Ridge, there are no crossings! So we were both right, yay!

Here's the crossing @ Ridge and Manor which I was thinking of - looks like the Cardinal joins the route with active tracks further south.

View attachment 28809
Yes. I knew that 😏
 

Brystar41

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Hi everyone!

I saw the recent news of the new massive plan for Chicago Union Station, and I am puzzled because isn't Chicago doing the whole CREATE project with the Railway networks of both Freight and Passenger in the Chicago metropolitan area?
I know that CREATE has P4, which will be from the Grand Crossing area of Chicago and will link from CN tracks to NS tracks. I wonder if that is still going in effect, or is it still on hold because that would be a direct way for Amtrak trains to head into Chicago easily.

All of the massive plans are amazing and looking forward to it when I go to the Midwest region since I am in Florida.
Anyways it is nice to meet y'all.
 

Brystar41

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Also on that note since this will affect Amtrak then what about Metra and the communities it serves? How will this affect their services? Such as the Heritage Corridor that goes to Joliet?
 

jis

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Also on that note since this will affect Amtrak then what about Metra and the communities it serves? How will this affect their services? Such as the Heritage Corridor that goes to Joliet?
Read the entire thread including the linked documents and the answer to your questions will become self-evident. ;)
 

MikefromCrete

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Also on that note since this will affect Amtrak then what about Metra and the communities it serves? How will this affect their services? Such as the Heritage Corridor that goes to Joliet?
The St. Charles Air Line revamp along with the new entrance to CUS from the Air Line will negate any use of the Grand Crossing plan. The Grand Crossing plan would just put more Amtak trains on NS, and we know what that means, more delays. The use of the South Shore route for the Michigan and LD trains will also take Amtrak off the NS which is continually in a state of breaking down.
As far as moving the Lincoln service and TE trains onto the Metra Rock Island, this should have no effect on the Heritage Service, except to open up a few time slots for more Heritage trains, all subject to CN's delays, of course.
 

Brystar41

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The St. Charles Air Line revamp along with the new entrance to CUS from the Air Line will negate any use of the Grand Crossing plan. The Grand Crossing plan would just put more Amtak trains on NS, and we know what that means, more delays. The use of the South Shore route for the Michigan and LD trains will also take Amtrak off the NS which is continually in a state of breaking down.
As far as moving the Lincoln service and TE trains onto the Metra Rock Island, this should have no effect on the Heritage Service, except to open up a few time slots for more Heritage trains, all subject to CN's delays, of course.
Ahh so that explains it, so it means the P4 could possibly be that project Amtrak, Metra, and Chicago have in store with the grade separation and connections to the Air Line. Also didn't know that of NS, I thought they are working with Amtrak to improve their railway lines?
Still looking forward to it and among other changes coming too. I hope Metra can electrify some of its lines, I understand not all will be but at least the ones that are possible and could make sense.

But for now, this is great, and glad they are improving these crossings as it will be more efficient to do so. Just wondering what will happen to stations such as Summit? And Heritage corridor is still going to continue on the CN route to Joliet, I hope you are right and they did increase service it seems weird that there is no weekend service at all.
 

MikefromCrete

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The Heritage Corridor is definitely the Metra line with the least service. It originated with a single Gulf, Mobile and Ohio commuter train. After Metra took over, several new trips were started. The line probably has the lowest population of any Metra route, so that probably helps explain the low level of service. Metra is offering Saturday trips this summer as part of a tourism promotion with towns like Lockport and Lemont. Whether this develops into year-round service is yet to be seen. Metra has still not resumed Saturday service on the Southwest Service route whose weekday service is mostly rush-hour commuters.
As far as Summit is concerned, it will still be served by Metra. With the Lincoln service and Eagle trains rerouted on the Rock Island, Amtrak may add a stop at some place like Tinley Park or Blue Island, both much larger towns than Summit.
The CN/Heritage corridor line is plagued by delays with grade-level crossings of major freight routes. The Rock Island's only grade level crossings with other railroads are with the CN/ex-EJ&E at Joliet and the St. Charles Air Line south of LaSalle Street station.
 

NorthShore

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This seems like an appropriate time to recall the CWI Plan: an alternative proposed by local rail advocates to portions of CREATE, as well as construction/implementation of new commuter rail 20 years ago. It was designed as a way to incrementally improve service and eliminate cross traffic such that these benefits would be realized in more immediate impact than CREATE could. It was a substantive plan, which ought to have been given more credence and serious consideration. However, having been put together not by paid consultants or official planners, it wasn't offered the kind of thoughtful potential that it deserved by powers that be at that time. Nonethless, it was reasonably promoted and publicly recognized. It ought to be revisited as part of historical understanding of possibilities which existed and in comparatively evaluating the effectiveness and cost of what has been accomplised (or not) with CREATE, as well as considering what still might be of worth today.

 
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Brystar41

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The Heritage Corridor is definitely the Metra line with the least service. It originated with a single Gulf, Mobile and Ohio commuter train. After Metra took over, several new trips were started. The line probably has the lowest population of any Metra route, so that probably helps explain the low level of service. Metra is offering Saturday trips this summer as part of a tourism promotion with towns like Lockport and Lemont. Whether this develops into year-round service is yet to be seen. Metra has still not resumed Saturday service on the Southwest Service route whose weekday service is mostly rush-hour commuters.
As far as Summit is concerned, it will still be served by Metra. With the Lincoln service and Eagle trains rerouted on the Rock Island, Amtrak may add a stop at some place like Tinley Park or Blue Island, both much larger towns than Summit.
The CN/Heritage corridor line is plagued by delays with grade-level crossings of major freight routes. The Rock Island's only grade level crossings with other railroads are with the CN/ex-EJ&E at Joliet and the St. Charles Air Line south of LaSalle Street station.
Thanks for the info on the situation with the whole upgrade projects Chicago and Amtrak Midwest is going thru. Also, Note I haven't been to Chicago nor the Midwest before but I do want to make a trip there on future Amtrak trains, I do want to try out the Venture cars they have there.

I was hoping to see the CREATE P4 project go thru because its a bummer on how the NS tracks, Amtrak won't be able to go thru because I checked the track routings of the surrounding area and also the Map that CREATE has and I do see that for Amtrak Trains coming into Chicago from the South and East of the US. It's more or less a Straight line to CUS. But it's a bummer that with the delays that NS has that Amtrak is thinking of a way around it, which I am looking forward to their new plan to use the CN route and use that flyover. But I wonder how the trains will be able to go up the flyover and be able to connect.

Another concern I see is Metra's Rock Island and Southwest services have to go thru a flat crossing? I am wondering if that is going to be addressed because that way there wouldn't be interference in each other operations. Also, another flat crossing would be for the Amtrak Trains heading to Michigan and the east coast, Is there any in the plans for a possible flyover that way it won't interfere with operations. I know places such as Europe and Asia where Railway operations are mostly separated by flyovers that way, there won't be interference?

Still, I do hope this project happens and any improvements to Railway infrastructure and Transportation, in general, are better than a no-build.
 

MisterUptempo

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FRA awards $3 million grant for Chicago Union Station concourse project


The Federal Railroad Administration will award $3 million in funding to complete the design for planned renovations to the concourse at Chicago Union Station.

The federal grant will be matched with $1.5 million from Metra, $600,000 from the Chicago Department of Transportation, $400,000 from Amtrak, and $250,000 each from the Illinois Department of Transportation and Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways. Amtrak and Metra trains serve the station.

Link to story at Progressive Railroading

Amtrak says that they anticipate an answer to their MEGA grant request by the end of September. Maybe getting FRA cash to complete the final designs might bode well for a thumbs up from the Feds on MEGA. Fingers crossed.
 

TransitTyrant

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FRA awards $3 million grant for Chicago Union Station concourse project




Link to story at Progressive Railroading

Amtrak says that they anticipate an answer to their MEGA grant request by the end of September. Maybe getting FRA cash to complete the final designs might bode well for a thumbs up from the Feds on MEGA. Fingers crossed.
I’m thinking the fact that lots of high profile Illinois politicians were at the July press conference bode well for its chances. That and Gardner calling it Amtraks most important current project. Getting everything funded before the 2024 election would ideal too.
 

MisterUptempo

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I thought this might be a worthwhile video to post.

On August 12, 2022, the High Speed Rail Alliance hosted a presentation/Q&A with Joe Shacter, Senior Manager at Amtrak for State-Supported Routes.

In the presentation, Shacter addresses plans to get Amtrak into/out of Chicago more quickly and reliably (now known as the Chicago Access Program), as well as changes to improve the traffic flow within Chicago Union Station.

It is estimated all the necessary work will cost $850 Million. This current phase of the project is estimated to cost $418.5 Million. Amtrak, as well as local agencies, have applied for a federal MEGA grant, which will cover 60% of the costs, Amtrak will cover 20%, while the local agencies will also cover 20%.

Of note during the presentation and Q&A-

1) On a slide showing a page from the actual MEGA application, here are a few projected dates for project start/completion, based on timely approval of the grant request-

a) The St. Charles Air Line Connector and upgraded Airline connection to the Rock Island tracks
(Engineering/NEPA/Construction)
-Start date 1st quarter(Q1) calendar year (CY) 2025
-Completion Q4 CY2026
-Improvements to the Rock Island connector would allow speeds on the connector to increase from 5MPH to 15MPH.

b) A new interim platform at Joliet for Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains
(Engineering/NEPA/Construction)
-Start Q4 CY2026
-Completion Q2 CY2027

c) Phase 1 of Union Station mail platform conversion to high-level passenger platform
-Final design complete by Q2 CY2023
-Construction start Q4 CY2023
-Completion Q1 CY2025.

d) Capacity improvements of platforms servicing tracks 2/4, 6/8, 10/12
(Engineering/NEPA only)
-Start Q1 CY2025
-Completion Q1 CY2027

e) Improvements to the concourse area
(Final Design/Construction)
-Start Q4 CY2024
-Completion Q4 CY2026

f) Niles-Glenwood Rd. (MI) double-tracking
(Engineering/NEPA only)-
Start Q2 CY2024 -
Completion Q2or4 CY2025

g) Train shed ventilation improvements
(Engineering/NEPA only)
-Start Q1 CY2025 -
-Completion Q1 CY 2027

h) Property acquisition (likely UP Canal Yard) $29 Million

2) Shacter mentioned that sending Amtrak onto NICTD at Kensington would apply, at least initially, to Michigan Service trains only. Negotiations with NICTD are only focused on MI Services now. But if it can be shown that adding eastbound LD trains would not adversely affect NICTD, Amtrak would very much like to get them off the NS Chicago Line as well. He said if the Capitol Limited were moved onto NICTD, it would likely mean ditching Superliners in favor of single-level rolling stock.

3) Amtrak is in talks with Metra about what capacity improvements would be necessary on the Rock Island to accommodate Lincoln/Eagle, which would be performed in conjunction with Metra increasing capacity for Southwest Service trains, which will turn onto the Rock north of 75th Street at some point in the future.

4) According to Shacter, maximum speeds on the Lincoln Service are anticipated to increase (Joliet to Alton) from 90MPH to 110MPH "in the next few months".

5) Several projects are being pursued by Amtrak and MDOT in MI; two he mentioned are-

a) a one-mile by-pass in Battle Creek to avoid having to use CN track there.

b) in Jackson, re-aligning the station track to accommodate two platforms, each servicing its own track.

6) Regarding the repurposed mail platforms, Shacter (who admitted he wasn't the best person to speak on the subject) mentioned accessing the mail platforms (and new waiting areas) from Harrison Street, or perhaps Van Buren, or both. I have no idea if that means a Harrison/Van Buren entry/exit would be the only place to access those platforms, or if it would be in addition to the converted Union Station basement steam tunnels under the platforms, as described in the Union Station Master Plan.

7) A decision on this MEGA grant is expected in the second half of September, 2022.

8) Regarding Chicago-Peoria service, Shacter says that IDOT has not yet formally requested Amtrak to look at Peoria service. But that might change. In related news, the mayor of Peoria recently announced that IDOT has decided to include Peoria service in its state rail plan, an important step in applying for Corridor ID funding.

9) Even though Metra will be the primary driver for service connecting O'Hare and McCormick Place through CUS, Amtrak is exploring the possibility of through-running some Midwest corridor trains up to O'Hare. An analysis of future through-running capacity will have to be completed to determine whether it's doable. This runs counter to what Amtrak Government Affairs rep Derrick James told HRSA last year, who said Amtrak had no interest in running to O'Hare. If this does occur, it would be nice to see Amtrak, Metra, IDOT, CDOT, and the Chicago Department of Aviation get together and provide significant improvements to O'Hare Transfer station, with an eye towards building a station at the terminals.

10) Shacter says Gardner, "wants to see Chicago on the path to being fixed within the next five years".

11) In Indiana, Fort Wayne service is being "looked at" at the request of local stakeholders, but INDOT has not yet expressed an interest in partnering with Amtrak on this. Discussions are just getting started over Amtrak using the future NICTD West Lake Extension as part of an "eventual" revived Hoosier State, which he said is several years out. Amtrak believes CHI-IND would be a perfect candidate for 110MPH, and considering the extensive work that will be required to get the CSX Monon sub into shape to run at any decent speed, they will seriously consider building for 110MPH. But, in the end, Amtrak takes all its cues from INDOT.

12) In Ohio, Amtrak is working very closely with state rail officials there on 3C, CLE-DET. Currently in the hands of Amtrak's Government Affairs people, not with State-Supported Routes.

13) Contrary to something Marc Magliari mentioned last year, Amtrak is supposedly still considering a long-term idea of building their own dedicated tracks on the old NYC/Nickel Plate(?) ROW, now being used by Commonwealth Edison. The concept would entail connecting to Amtrak-owned lines at Porter. That means, at some point, CREATE Grand Crossing will be back in play, as Shacter envisions using the CN Lakeshore tracks, connecting to the new dedicated tracks at Grand Crossing on the way out of Chicago. If MI Services utilize NICTD to Michigan City, the Amtrak-owned tracks from Porter to MC will go unused until those dedicated tracks are built.

Edit - to correct a project completion date
 
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west point

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I like the idea of thru running using the mail platforms. However IMO enough height clearance is done to allow fuure OCS CAT to be installed to clear Superliners.
 

Touchdowntom9

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Is there any update regarding the approval of the MEGA grant?
Also would Amtrak be planning to make any upgrades to the South Shore Line in the event they begin to plan to run trains on that track? Could be a big benefit to both groups
 

TransitTyrant

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Is there any update regarding the approval of the MEGA grant?
Also would Amtrak be planning to make any upgrades to the South Shore Line in the event they begin to plan to run trains on that track? Could be a big benefit to both groups
No news yet, possibly by the end of Q4. Obviously Amtrak would have to upgrade the SSL further. What those upgrades entail is anyones guess but possibly include
-multiple crossovers
-higher speed track
-signal upgrades
 

Touchdowntom9

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No news yet, possibly by the end of Q4. Obviously Amtrak would have to upgrade the SSL further. What those upgrades entail is anyones guess but possibly include
-multiple crossovers
-higher speed track
-signal upgrades
Thanks for clarifying as I wasn't sure if I missed an update (2 months after the mid Sept timing they suggested). The SSL from what I can tell has some great track geometry esp once you get outside of Chicago that Amtrak could really step on the gas on if they wanted to use it for their other routes. Owning track is always nice, but using track owned by a state gov entity is 90% as good.
 

TransitTyrant

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Thanks for clarifying as I wasn't sure if I missed an update (2 months after the mid Sept timing they suggested). The SSL from what I can tell has some great track geometry esp once you get outside of Chicago that Amtrak could really step on the gas on if they wanted to use it for their other routes. Owning track is always nice, but using track owned by a state gov entity is 90% as good.
Also a grant was awarded by the FRA back in August to finish the design of concourse renovations. Part of the overall scope of the project but separate from the MEGA funding.
 

MisterUptempo

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No news yet, possibly by the end of Q4. Obviously Amtrak would have to upgrade the SSL further. What those upgrades entail is anyones guess but possibly include
-multiple crossovers
-higher speed track
-signal upgrades
Looking much longer term, upgrading the Metra Electric/South Shore to constant tension catenary. Besides the Hiawatha, if there are two routes in the Midwest screaming out for future electrification, they'd be the Wolverine/Michigan Line and a renewed Hoosier State/Monon Line. And both routes look to use ME/SSL out of Chicago.

The RTA has funded a study to explore that possibility.
 
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