Three-hour ride between Chicago and Cincinnati possible, Midwest group says

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Amtrak’s southbound Saluki seen leaving Chicago from the City of New Orleans on an existing grade-separated, former Illinois Central right-of-way that could accommodate high speed trains.
Bob Johnston
CHICAGO — The Midwest High Speed Rail Association this week released a 50-page white paper which describes how a combination of high-speed trunk lines and upgraded feeder rail routes coupled with dedicated bus services can increase mobility throughout the U.S., and especially the Midwest.

Rather than only concentrating on point-to-point fast train systems between major cities, the “phased network approach” spells out ways to integrate a variety of services to conveniently link many station pairs — big city, suburban, and rural — all at once.

The blueprint for systems that serve multiple markets and as many constituencies as possible already exists, the proposal outlines, in France, Germany, and Japan. Although noted for their speedy trainsets and dedicated routes, the real strength of these systems are the multiple connections provided to the main stems.

After describing in detail how those countries use coordinated multiple-speed services to boost usage, the paper then goes on to show how a combination of upgraded Metra Electric tracks from O’Hare International Airport through Chicago, a high-speed trunk connecting the Windy City with Indianapolis, and conventional feeders to other communities could reduce Chicago-Indianapolis rail travel times from the current five hours, ten minutes to 90 minutes.

With upgraded freight railroad tracks continuing on to Cincinnati (along the former route of New York Central’s James Whitcomb Riley) three-hour Chicago-Cincinnati overall travel times could be achieved compared with today’s lethargic eight hours, thirty minutes on the Cardinal.

“The core point is that rather than only trying to keep projects affordable, we should be figuring out how to put more people on trains," Rick Harnish, Midwest High Speed Rail Association’s Executive Director, tells Trains News Wire. "We need a new ridership and revenue model that combines commuter, feeder, and intercity trips in a way suited to the geography and demographics to the Midwest.”

The proposal outlines a series of specific recommendations, including:
•Increasing compensation to host railroads, combined with publicly-funded infrastructure improvements, but limiting top train speeds to 90 mph on these routes
•Identifying and constructing big networks, but implementing fast, dedicated right-of-way segments with a high-impact first phase that serves many markets at once through feeders

“With such a model in place,” says Harnish. “we can define a funding and financing plan to convince elected officials that high speed rail incorporated into a phased network is not only feasible, but essential to the economic states and communities.”

The full report is available online.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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