High Speed Rail Comes to Illinois This Fall

The first test of high-speed rail in Illinois is slated for early October along a 20-mile stretch of track south of Joliet.

Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak have asked federal regulators for waivers to run passenger trains between Dwight and Pontiac at 110 mph instead of the normal 79 mph allowed by federal standards on the Chicago-St. Louis line. It’s one of the nation’s first high-speed rail corridor projects funded by a $1.2 billion grant from the 2009 federal stimulus program and other federal, state and local funding.

What is actually being tested is a new system using radio signals instead of track circuits to activate warning gates sooner as trains approach highway crossings along the route. Radio technology also allows two-way communications to let a train engineer know if the crossing gates aren’t working or a vehicle is stuck on the tracks.

Instead of gates coming down about 30 to 35 seconds before a train reaches a crossing, they will be programmed to come down 80 seconds in advance, to give the faster trains more time to stop or at least slow down if there is a problem. There are 24 highway crossings along the segment of track being tested.

Issues relating to rail transportation are examined in several Roosevelt University seminars, including SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, and Planning (to be offered online in Spring 2012) and SUST 310 Energy and Climate Change. For more information on these or any other of our courses, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email applyRU@roosevelt.edu.

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