Ambitious restoration and transformation in the Chicago area

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west point

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auto router appears that the freight RRs and passenger RRs are on two different paths. Freights are trying to reduce dispatchers as much as possible but as reported else where there are as many as 9 dispatchers on the NEC WASH - NYP. It appears that the examples of automated dispatching for NS on the CRESCENT and into CHI have been somewhat of a failure..
The problem is IMO unanticipated happenings. Auto router might be able to handle one problem but when there are multiples there is no way a computer probgram can anticipate all..

Has the vendor contract been written such that if any dispatcher over rides any auto router set up then vendor will not investigate the screw up?
 
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Would it not be more advantageous to simply restore the ex-PRR passenger mains from the 21st St. Bridge through Gary? I believe the ROW supported freight and passenger mains for both the PRR and NYC from Englewood to Clarke Junction. What prevents Amtrak from building two more tracks that are separate from the current NS tracks and dispatching them themselves?
 
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The Trains article jis linked to further up the thread mentions that purchasing the CN freight tracks from downtown Chicago to Kensington is very much part of the plan, but it is the only portion of the plan that is not constrained at this time.

I took another look at MDOT's Tier 1 South of the Lake plans, and Route 9 (options 1 and 2), which utilized the same CN tracks, would have flown over NICTD at Kensington to connect to the IHB and then onto CSX Porter Sub (option 2 connected to CSX at Ivanhoe, option 1 connected to CSX 5 miles further east at a greenfield connection), eventually turning onto the Michigan Line at Porter.
Q5CJnBN.png

I'm glad that Amtrak is trying to get off freight corridors, but their plans lean pretty heavily on NICTD at the moment. I just hope, at some point, they consider building a little redundancy into the system, in case, for example, there is an accident on the 16th Street Connector or a major derailment on NICTD, either of which could gum up the works pretty badly. Keeping these South of the Lake plans in their back pocket might not be a bad idea.
I agree on multiple routes for redundancy and convenience. It might make more sense to run further south.

Funnily enough it got me looking at the MED map and wonder if it would be possible to extend the South Chicago branch to like the southeast side which has no transit, but it looks like it would be far easier to take it to Jeffrey Manor.

Would it not be more advantageous to simply restore the ex-PRR passenger mains from the 21st St. Bridge through Gary? I believe the ROW supported freight and passenger mains for both the PRR and NYC from Englewood to Clarke Junction. What prevents Amtrak from building two more tracks that are separate from the current NS tracks and dispatching them themselves?

I think that the owners of the ROW were the problem - but also CREATE was supposed to do something along those lines, at least in part. I'm not as familiar with NW Indiana in that area, but there is a lot of industrial freight in there - oil/petroleum tankers, chemicals, raw iron and steel products.
 

Burns651

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...consider building a little redundancy into the system, in case, for example, there is an accident on the 16th Street Connector or a major derailment on NICTD, either of which could gum up the works pretty badly. Keeping these South of the Lake plans in their back pocket might not be a bad idea.
There's also no redundancy built into the current exclusive use of the NS west of Porter. Unfortunately it will be all that Amtrak can manage to do to secure use of the NICTD; there's no extra money lying around to also build and/or relay a parallel alternate route.
 

west point

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Would it not be more advantageous to simply restore the ex-PRR passenger mains from the 21st St. Bridge through Gary? I believe the ROW supported freight and passenger mains for both the PRR and NYC from Englewood to Clarke Junction. What prevents Amtrak from building two more tracks that are separate from the current NS tracks and dispatching them themselves?
I agree. The out of service lift bridge would be the most expensive portion.
 

railiner

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Would it not be more advantageous to simply restore the ex-PRR passenger mains from the 21st St. Bridge through Gary? I believe the ROW supported freight and passenger mains for both the PRR and NYC from Englewood to Clarke Junction. What prevents Amtrak from building two more tracks that are separate from the current NS tracks and dispatching them themselves?
Not sure, but didn't they sell off portions of the right of way to power lines and other uses?
 

Burns651

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Would it not be more advantageous to simply restore the ex-PRR passenger mains from the 21st St. Bridge through Gary? I believe the ROW supported freight and passenger mains for both the PRR and NYC from Englewood to Clarke Junction. What prevents Amtrak from building two more tracks that are separate from the current NS tracks and dispatching them themselves?
Because without hugely expensive flyovers there'd still be freight interference. NS would still have to cross any new Amtrak tracks to get to the intermodal yard on the north side of the right of way at 63rd St. There's a freight connection from the north that ties into NS/Amtrak just east of the Calumet Sag Channel bridge. Another freight connection on the north side of the RoW just west of the Indiana Harbor canal. Diamonds at Pine Jct. More conflicts on the north side between there and Porter at US Steel, Cleveland Cliffs Burns Harbor mill, etc.
 
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Because without hugely expensive flyovers there'd still be freight interference. NS would still have to cross any new Amtrak tracks to get to the intermodal yard on the north side of the right of way at 63rd St. There's a freight connection from the north that ties into NS/Amtrak just east of the Calumet Sag Channel bridge. Another freight connection on the north side of the RoW just west of the Indiana Harbor canal. Diamonds at Pine Jct. More conflicts on the north side between there and Porter at US Steel, Cleveland Cliffs Burns Harbor mill, etc.
I hadn't looked at Englewood in a while, but couldn't you route traffic bound for the 63rd St. yard via the ex-NYC mains, which were 4 (?) tracks to the north of the ex-PRR tracks, rather than constructing multiple flyovers? You are also correct about the connection just east of the Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor Canal west of Pine Jct. While there would still be interaction between freight and passenger trains if Amtrak had its own dedicated passenger tracks, would the situation still not be dramatically more favorable than it is now? Installing flyovers or restoring the ex-NYC tracks for freight on the north side of the ROW would be great, but is *completely* severing freight and passenger traffic necessary for smooth passenger operations? NS runs a number of trains from Perryville to Baltimore on the NEC, no? And that's on a 2-track line where freight and the Acela are running on the same track...
 

Burns651

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It would be interesting to see what the Amtrak plans alluded to by @Burns651 in his post above has to say about all this. Clearly they do have to address the issues raised by @Metra Electric Rider. I am referring to this post.
I can't tell for sure from the plan which tracks would be used between Kensington and the St. Charles Airline connection. It only depicts two tracks, and the only details given between those points is a planned 45 MPH crossover at 39th St, and a maximum speed of 79 on the whole stretch. It does show mileposts but they're the same on that segment whether you're on electric or CN tracks.

I would scan parts of the plan but it was given to me by an Amtrak employee under the condition that I not post images of it. It doesn't have close engineering detail aside from speeds of planned turnouts and platform lengths.
 

MisterUptempo

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There's also no redundancy built into the current exclusive use of the NS west of Porter. Unfortunately it will be all that Amtrak can manage to do to secure use of the NICTD; there's no extra money lying around to also build and/or relay a parallel alternate route.
I can appreciate that funding is in short supply. But what concerns me most is that we will have Amtrak eastern trains, Amtrak southern trains, Illinois and Michigan service trains, possibly new Amtrak regional trains, future O'Hare-McCormick Place trains, and potential Metra RER-type service all depending on a one track connector. One. Track. For a lot more trains than just those that currently use the NS Chicago Line.

What I wrote earlier about Amtrak (and all the other entities involved in this project) having a backup plan in their back pockets should still hold true. Yes, there won't be any money available right now, as the cash needs to be spread in a lot of different places. But CREATE projects have been getting built long before the current pot of gold materialized. And more will be completed as time goes by.

Having CREATE-Grand Crossing plans, for example, handy and shovel-ready should hopefully prove to be insurance against the possibility that the Air Line Connector isn't able to deliver everything all its proponents are counting on it to be.
 

Burns651

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I hadn't looked at Englewood in a while, but couldn't you route traffic bound for the 63rd St. yard via the ex-NYC mains, which were 4 (?) tracks to the north of the ex-PRR tracks, rather than constructing multiple flyovers? You are also correct about the connection just east of the Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor Canal west of Pine Jct. While there would still be interaction between freight and passenger trains if Amtrak had its own dedicated passenger tracks, would the situation still not be dramatically more favorable than it is now? Installing flyovers or restoring the ex-NYC tracks for freight on the north side of the ROW would be great, but is *completely* severing freight and passenger traffic necessary for smooth passenger operations? NS runs a number of trains from Perryville to Baltimore on the NEC, no? And that's on a 2-track line where freight and the Acela are running on the same track...
It just seems that if Amtrak has the opportunity to move onto the South Shore tracks, it would be simpler than building new trackage by the NS that still would leave substantial freight conflicts. The South Shore isn't 100% free of freight interference but the issues are more minor than along the NS.
 
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It just seems that if Amtrak has the opportunity to move onto the South Shore tracks, it would be simpler than building new trackage by the NS that still would leave substantial freight conflicts. The South Shore isn't 100% free of freight interference but the issues are more minor than along the NS.
The ex-PRR has a superior profile though, no? Is it not shorter than rerouting via South Shore + Air Line? It also only has curves greater than 1° at Englewwod and on both sides of the Hammond-Whiting Station. It's also grade separated to Gary save one employee crossing directly north of the 21st St. Bridge, three crossings again adjacent to the Hammond-Whiting station, and Clarke Rd. near the Gary airport. That kind of track geometry is screaming for high passenger speeds. Perhaps 125 mph with Chargers and 160+ if electrification ever makes it across the Alleghenies...
 

Burns651

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I can appreciate that funding is in short supply. But what concerns me most is that we will have Amtrak eastern trains, Amtrak southern trains, Illinois and Michigan service trains, possibly new Amtrak regional trains, future O'Hare-McCormick Place trains, and potential Metra RER-type service all depending on a one track connector. One. Track. For a lot more trains than just those that currently use the NS Chicago Line.
Are you assuming that Amtrak isn't contemplating re-double tracking the Air Line? There are 3 bridges (Michigan, Wabash, State) on the Air Line that had the second track span removed, and the right of way is still there on the whole line to reinstall the second track. Hardly a deal breaker.

In fact, the Dearborn St. bridge was recently completely replaced with a span wide enough to allow a second track.
 

Burns651

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The ex-PRR has a superior profile though, no? Is it not shorter than rerouting via South Shore + Air Line? It also only has curves greater than 1° at Englewwod and on both sides of the Hammond-Whiting Station. It's also grade separated to Gary save one employee crossing directly north of the 21st St. Bridge, three crossings again adjacent to the Hammond-Whiting station, and Clarke Rd. near the Gary airport. That kind of track geometry is screaming for high passenger speeds. Perhaps 125 mph with Chargers and 160+ if electrification ever makes it across the Alleghenies...
I would imagine that the Amtrak engineering department has studied the South Shore geometry thoroughly and approved it for its purposes. A shorter distance on the ex-PRR and NYC doesn't matter when you still end up stopping for freight traffic, regardless of if some new parallel tracks are built.
 

MisterUptempo

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Are you assuming that Amtrak isn't contemplating re-double tracking the Air Line? There are 3 bridges (Michigan, Wabash, State) on the Air Line that had the second track span removed, and the right of way is still there on the whole line to reinstall the second track. Hardly a deal breaker.

In fact, the Dearborn St. bridge was recently completely replaced with a span wide enough to allow a second track.
I'm specifically referring to the Connector itself, which utilizes the Air Line bridge, then curving to the north and onto Union Station's approach tracks. The draft I posted and the Trains article reported it will be a one track affair. I'm really hoping it's not true, but we have no info to contradict.
 
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I'm specifically referring to the Connector itself, which utilizes the Air Line bridge, then curving to the north and onto Union Station's approach tracks. The draft I posted and the Trains article reported it will be a one track affair. I'm really hoping it's not true, but we have no info to contradict.
Would a one-track feeder, with provisions to later upgrade to two, be that much worse? I have not tried to answer that through modelling, as the present arrangement only adds roughly a half hour a year to 15 hours of (my) travel. I would think any direct route would be a big improvement over the present arrangement!
 
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jis

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I'm specifically referring to the Connector itself, which utilizes the Air Line bridge, then curving to the north and onto Union Station's approach tracks. The draft I posted and the Trains article reported it will be a one track affair. I'm really hoping it's not true, but we have no info to contradict.
In my thinking that connector is a short piece of single track (assuming the Air Line is doubled) which takes a short time to traverse and should be manageable for traffic foreseen in the next decade or two. It is like the Empire Connector from Penn Station to the Empire trackage in west Manhattan. When traffic grows sufficiently it can be double tracked. A single track there should be able to handle 10tph which for now should be more than sufficient. Naturally it would be prudent to leave easements for future doubling.

All in all I think it OK to build out a single track connection now leaving easements for future double tracking.
Can you imagine the delay post. train xx delayed by commuter RR trafic. AKA--South shore line.
One does not need to imagine. Just come to Orlando to see it in real life :D specially when the Silvers come to the Sunrail territory out of slot, which is, needless to say, quite often.

The ex-PRR has a superior profile though, no? Is it not shorter than rerouting via South Shore + Air Line? It also only has curves greater than 1° at Englewwod and on both sides of the Hammond-Whiting Station. It's also grade separated to Gary save one employee crossing directly north of the 21st St. Bridge, three crossings again adjacent to the Hammond-Whiting station, and Clarke Rd. near the Gary airport. That kind of track geometry is screaming for high passenger speeds. Perhaps 125 mph with Chargers and 160+ if electrification ever makes it across the Alleghenies...
That would indeed be a good alignment if there was financial stomach to make that new trackage completely grade separated from everything else and dispatched by Amtrak or METRA. But that is a pretty long shot I think.

NS runs a number of trains from Perryville to Baltimore on the NEC, no? And that's on a 2-track line where freight and the Acela are running on the same track...

A couple of nits that need pointing out... It is not a two track segment all the way between Perry and Bayview. The bridges are two track but the trackage on solid ground is mostly three track, and 4 track west of Chase. The number of trains NS runs on that segment are few, around three or so per day and most importantly, (a) they run mostly at low traffic times at night and (b) they are dispatched by Amtrak. The situation in NS land in south of the Lake is very very different from that and not comparable at all IMHO.

Incidentally there are other segments of the NEC that host some freight too, and a classic case of freight on substantially double track railroad happens around New London to Providence segment with an occasional P&W job. But again, they are very few, dispatched by Amtrak, and usually far away temporally from any significant passenger traffic.
 
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I can't tell for sure from the plan which tracks would be used between Kensington and the St. Charles Airline connection. It only depicts two tracks, and the only details given between those points is a planned 45 MPH crossover at 39th St, and a maximum speed of 79 on the whole stretch. It does show mileposts but they're the same on that segment whether you're on electric or CN tracks.
My guess if it's two tracks would be using CN. There's a siding around 39th Street - will try to check tomorrow on my way to work (if I remember). Amtrak certainly runs at or close to that speed on that stretch now.

Somehow I think the term connection is a misnomer since the CN tracks merge into the Airline with no interruption - there's nowhere else for trains to go.

The Airline itself definitely needs to be rebuilt in places with new bridges and two tracks.
 

MikefromCrete

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Routing Amtrak trains away from Norfolk Southern is a solid idea. The railroad has proven itself to be incapable of handling passenger trains on an on-time basis. Rerouting on to the South Shore would pretty much guarantee better handling. Of course there might be some delays during rush hour periods, but those delays would be of much shorter duration than NS' unreliable dispatching. Putting the eastern trains on the former IC's lakefront route will be much more reliable than running through NS' yard trackage. As far as the 10 mph approach to CUS from the Airline, how much faster can you run a train through terminal yard trackage? Moving the Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains from the CN to Metra Rock Island also allows a much smoother entrance to Chicago.
CN would probably have no problem selling the lakefront line north of Kensington since just about all its trains are now routed on the former EJ&E to points north of Chicago.
Sending the Cardinal and any future Indianapolis trains north of Dyer on the now being built South Shore line would drastically cut the problems the train now has getting through UP's Yard Center and being handed off from CSX to UP to Metra.
 

Burns651

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I took another look at the plan and noticed that Amtrak would utilize "track typically used by commuters" (thick black lines, not thin ones) between Kensington and the Airline. As I mentioned before I'm not at liberty to reproduce the original, but I replicated as best as I could in Paint the westernmost section shown on the plan. The speed limit grid was color-coded but I didn't bother re-creating the colors, or showing the mileposts.

Best wishes to anyone attempting to decipher the image further or read between the lines!
St. Charles.png
 

neroden

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Would it not be more advantageous to simply restore the ex-PRR passenger mains from the 21st St. Bridge through Gary? I believe the ROW supported freight and passenger mains for both the PRR and NYC from Englewood to Clarke Junction. What prevents Amtrak from building two more tracks that are separate from the current NS tracks and dispatching them themselves?
Funding. They have to get the money to buy the ROW out from under NS/CSX/Conrail. Basically that's all that prevents it


(PS -- Also see my next comment: the ROW from Englewood to Union Station -- where there were never any NYC tracks -- is actually a seriously expensive problem. It may make sense to run on St Charles Air Line and IC/CN tracks from Union Station to Grand Crossing just to avoid that section, even if you are building two new tracks from Englewood to Gary on the former NYC ROW.)
 
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neroden

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Includes rerouting of Cardinal between Chicago and Dyer! If it happen it will indeed transform entrance into Chicago from the east and south.
It's a good list. Most of this is the "low-hanging fruit":
-- Direct connection from St Charles Air Line to Union Station -- yes, it's single track, but it's OK for a station throat for now. Eventually it'll need to be double tracked at great expense but only once there are so many trains running that there's a large political lobby to advocate for it
-- Faster connection from St. Charles Air Line to Metra Rock Island District -- gets high-speed rail from Chicago to St Louis out of the freight gauntlet from Chicago through Joliet
-- reactivating the mail platforms (which are HIGH LEVEL) makes a big difference in boarding at Chicago
-- Chicago Union Station trainshed ventilation is depressingly overdue, and a basic health need
-- Buying the CN tracks parallel to Metra Electric from Chicago to Kensington is a sensible matter of preserving capacity for passengers while the tracks are cheap to buy. It will at any rate be good for the Illini, Saluki, and CONO. And a vast improvement over the Cardinal's current route.

Using this and the South Shore Line is an utterly stupid route for the Michigan services, LSL, and CL from Union Station to South Bend -- it's got a lot of twists and turns and is very slow -- but it has proven quite difficult to fund buying the vacant straight, fast ROW from squatter NS. CN has been very interested in selling off its tracks and this one may be cheap right now. Buy it while it's for sale.

Of course, none of this *precludes* buying the fast, straight route from NS later. It could be bought in segments.

I will discuss this possibility.
Union Station to Grand Crossing is one segment. Probably the really expensive one to buy. The ROW is very constrained in places north of the Dan Ryan, meaning people's back yards and alleys would need to be taken; with tight S-curves. And there's a lot of elevated viaducts and bridges over roads and highways (including the LONG bridge over Dan Ryan, and bridges over many many roads) which would need new spans for Amtrak -- very expensive.

Also, NS is jealous of their access to their yard just south of 63rd St near the place where the Metra Rock Island Line flies over, which is on the north/east side of the line, when all the other yards are on the south/west side of the line, and there's no room to fly over the NS tracks there.


Also, Amtrak really doesn't like the former Pennsy drawbridge across the Chicago River -- it's apparently a major cause of delays. It's the lowest-clearance drawbridge on the river and has to open for a lot of boat traffic. So it may make more sense to take the St Charles Air Line / CN route just to avoid that, even if Amtrak has an all-passenger route.

The St Charles Air Line / CN route is only 0.2 miles longer and has gentle curves.

Grand Crossing is where the Metra Electric and CN lines dive under the NS and vacant former NYC lines.

So, Grand Crossing to Gary is another segment. This is where the Metra/NICTD route is really slow and twisty, with lots of sharp curves, and the NS route is extremely direct. This, however, has a lot fewer problems and would be a lot cheaper to implement than Grand Crossing to Union.

There's room to fly up from the Metra Electric tracks into the vacant former NYC ROW, and then the bridges are intact up to the decommissioned swing bridge over the Calumet, with no freight tracks to the east to cause trouble. Some goofball ran high-voltage power lines along part of the route, but there's still enough room for passenger tracks.

The vacant ROW is wide open from there south, with only one connecting track crossing it, all the way to Hammond-Whiting station. In fact there are several places the tracks coule be placed, between various other tracks.

More rearrangement of tracks and bridges (at least one more crossing of freight tracks and a couple of troublesome road bridges to get around, one river bridges, plus at least one flyover to get from one side of a set of freight tracks to the other) would be needed to thread the passenger tracks through Whiting, Indiana Harbor, and Buffington Harbor, but there's a lot of space.

The vacant ROW is clear again from Buffington Harbor all the way to where the NS tracks meet the NICTD tracks, with one river bridge needed and one crossover freight track to deal with. It would run through the derelict Gary Union Station (or, more expensively, could cross over the Indiana Toll Road to Gary before that).

Anyway, it's six miles shorter than the Metra/NICTD route, avoids the level crossing at Kensington, avoids waiting behind commuter traffic, and doesn't have the slow curves. But it could be done independently of the portion north of Grand Crossing, which has lot more ROW and construction issues.

So thinking about it, I think this is how the thinking goes:

-- once it was decided to run Chicago-St Louis service on the Rock Island Line, it became necessary to get from Union Station to the Rock Island Line. There are various bad ways of doing this, but the connection from the St Charles Air Line directly to the north to Union Station is definitely the best way.
-- That connection also benefits the Illini/Saluki/CONO. Buying the St Charles Air Line and the CN line next to the Metra Electric Line preserves that capacity for passengers and protects it.
-- Since West Lake Corridor is already being built, once you've done this, it makes sense to reroute the Cardinal from its current incredibly messy route to this route and NICTD
-- Given the problems with the Grand Crossing - Union Station section on the existing LSL/CL/Michigan route, especially the low drawbridge and the need to take backyards and alleys to get exclusive passenger tracks, and the difficulties in trying to improve it, it makes sense to shift LSL/CL/Michigan over to the route you just bought, even if you do eventually want to reclaim the vacant Grand Crossing - Gary ROW and build proper fast tracks there.
 
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Burns651

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Using this and the South Shore Line is an utterly stupid route for the Michigan services, LSL, and CL from Union Station to South Bend -- it's got a lot of twists and turns and is very slow -- but it has proven quite difficult to fund buying the vacant straight, fast ROW from squatter NS.
Amtrak plans for substantial speed upgrades on the NICTD from Michigan City as far as Hegewisch. Lengthy stretches of 90 to 110 MPH. Probably raised speeds east of Michigan City as well, I haven't come across any detailed plan for that yet.

Even if Amtrak relaid the NYC from Englewood to Whiting, that does nothing to resolve the freight interference from there to Elkhart. Those delays alone likely exceed any problematic curves on an upgraded NICTD-- and at any rate Amtrak's engineering department has already done the calculations to show it!
 
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