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Replay: Why train service needs to be to Chicago, not Normal

Speaking of bad ideas, a recent Word on the Street article says that local officials are still pursuing the foolhardy idea of getting a commuter train to Bloomington instead of a direct Amtrak route to Chicago. Rather than re-explain in different words why this is such a bad idea, I’m just going to reprint an earlier article I wrote on the subject (original post here):

The old Peoria-to-Bloomington commuter train idea is apparently still on the table over at the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission. Let’s go over this again:

Nobody wants to take a train to Bloomington. The only reason anyone would ever take a train to Bloomington is to continue on to Chicago or St. Louis. And if their ultimate destination is elsewhere, they’ll just drive to Bloomington to catch the train. Bloomington has free parking and virtually no traffic congestion. So a Peoria-Bloomington route is doomed to fail.

Peoria to Chicago, on the other hand, would be a heavily-traveled route. Since Chicago would be the ultimate destination for most train trips anyway (they’re a major Amtrak hub, unlike St. Louis), it makes sense to have a direct route from Peoria. Those in the tri-county area could avoid the commute to Bloomington to catch the train, as well as avoiding the traffic congestion and high cost of parking in Chicago.

Look at it this way: imagine we’re talking about air service instead of train service. Can you imagine anyone seriously suggesting that the best we could do is to offer commuter flights to Bloomington for those who wanted to continue on to Chicago (or any other destination)? With a layover? Where you have to switch planes and transfer your own bags? Would anyone buy a ticket on that flight? No. And they won’t take a commuter train to Bloomington, either.

We need our legislators to start fighting for Peoria transportation options instead of fighting against them. You would think we’d be in a great position having a home-town boy as Secretary of Transportation, and yet LaHood is the biggest obstacle. He’s never supported train service for Peoria. In fact, he’s been downright ornery opposing it. Why? Does Caterpillar not want train service to Peoria or something? And what about Durbin? He supported the Quad Cities in their effort to get passenger rail service–why isn’t he doing more to push Peoria’s effort? Where are our advocates?

The Greater Peoria Area is the third-largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the state. There’s demand for passenger rail service here. Instead of the Illinois Department of Transportation giving away millions of dollars to build new and unsustainable roads through cornfields (Orange Prairie Road extension, Pioneer Parkway extension), why don’t they put that money toward a responsible and sustainable mode of transportation that would help the whole region: direct passenger rail service from Peoria to Chicago?

лак за паркет

47 comments to Replay: Why train service needs to be to Chicago, not Normal

  • Conrad Stinnett

    This post is as true today as it was the first time you posted it. I enailed Dave Koehler, Jehan Gordon and Darin Lahood last month to ask why IDOT did NOT do a feasibilty study of a Peoria to Chicago line. As of today, I’ve not received an answer from any of them.

  • David P. Jordan

    Conrad,

    The excuse I’ve seen is that Union Pacific’s capacity study precluded having additional passenger trains on the existing Chicago-St. Louis route for the forseeable future, or until track capacity increased (lengthened sidings and/or double track). Problem with that is, all those projected passengers connecting to/from four roundtrip-a-day East Peoria-Normal shuttle service would require additional trains Chicago-St. Louis trains to handle them.

  • David P. Jordan

    Conrad,

    The excuse I’ve seen is that Union Pacific’s capacity study precluded having additional passenger trains on the existing Chicago-St. Louis route for the forseeable future, or until track capacity increased (lengthened sidings and/or double track). Problem with that is, all those projected passengers connecting to/from four roundtrip-a-day East Peoria-Normal shuttle service would require additional Chicago-St. Louis trains to handle them.

  • MW

    To the author. Do you have any idea how much it would cost to complete what you are proposing? I am a proponent of train travel and I love Peoria but what your saying is simply not reality. I understand your concerns about the possible lack of use of this shorter route but again, you have to realize the funding it would take to complete what you are proposing is astronomical and not in any way feasible.

  • Sterling

    The last Peoria-Chicago train, the Marksman, was shut down in 1981 due to low ridership (65 passengers a day — two full CityLink buses). The IAIS track along the Illinois River hasn’t really gotten much better since 1981. Furthermore, that line would tie into the Chicago-Galesburg line around Bureau Junction, and that line is already going to be getting additional trains for Chicago-Quad Cities trains starting up in a few years. If rail congestion is an issue on Chi-StL, it’s going to be an issue on that stretch of track as well.

    A commuter train to Bloomington actually might make sense if it also catered to… commuters. There’s a lot of Peoria-Bloomington commuting that goes on with CAT and State Farm employees, and I’m sure a town like Morton (and counties like Tazewell and Woodford) would be salivating at the thought of a passenger rail connection between the two metros.

  • Conrad Stinnett

    This isn’t 1981. Things have changed. Rail will cost, but I believe the demand is there. If the “powers that be” wish to revive an East-West inter-urban, that is cool, but it should be in addition to direct Chicago access.

  • David P. Jordan

    MW,

    The Feasibility Study showed that the old Prairie Marksman route could be upgraded for far less than the East Peoria-Normal Shuttle. Tie into the existing Chicago-St. Louis route at Chenoa and offer through train service. Better and cheaper – no wonder the politicians don’t want to do it. :(

    http://www.dot.il.gov/amtrak/P.....bility.pdf

  • David P. Jordan

    The last Peoria-Chicago train, the Marksman, was shut down in 1981 due to low ridership (65 passengers a day — two full CityLink buses).

    The Prairie Marksman was an experiment train, never serious. Recent memories of the Rock Island’s deteriorating service, bad publicity from the Peoria Journal Star and a depot Superman would mistake for a telephone booth didn’t help. A stop at Eureka was added in July 1981, a few months before service ended.

    The IAIS track along the Illinois River hasn’t really gotten much better since 1981.

    It is much better since 1981. The Iowa Interstate Railroad poured $1.5 million into a grade crossing replacement and major tie and surfacing project in 2010. Check out this video showing yesterday’s regular local train between Mossville and Chillicothe, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_f7lLB9Fnc

    Furthermore, that line would tie into the Chicago-Galesburg line around Bureau Junction,

    The IAIS track along the Illinois River would tie into the former Rock Island mainline at Bureau Jct. and following that route (controlled by CSX Transportation between Utica and Joliet and Metra east of there) to Chicago.

    and that line is already going to be getting additional trains for Chicago-Quad Cities trains starting up in a few years. If rail congestion is an issue on Chi-StL, it’s going to be an issue on that stretch of track as well.

    BNSF’s Chicago-Galesburg is DOUBLE TRACK and has excess capacity. Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis route is single-track.

    A commuter train to Bloomington actually might make sense if it also catered to… commuters. There’s a lot of Peoria-Bloomington commuting that goes on with CAT and State Farm employees,

    There isn’t any congestion in either metro area, so unless we close I-74, Rt. 150 and Rt. 9, rail commuter service is unneeded. Commuters will drive because their final origins and destinations are spread far and wide. The small number of potential commuters who cannot drive does not justify commuter rail service.

    and I’m sure a town like Morton (and counties like Tazewell and Woodford) would be salivating at the thought of a passenger rail connection between the two metros.

    Morton is not even on the existing railroad between [East] Peoria and Bloomington-Normal. Considering driving times on I-74 are 10 minutes and 25 minutes, respectively, Mortonites would be waiting at the station as long as they’d make the drive.

    If rail passenger service plays in Peoria, it must be done right or not at all.

  • Vonster

    Call me dumb but I still fail to understand why you couldn’t route the train via BNSF at Chilli. Sure, it needs work but…

  • Vonster

    And I mean TZPR to IAS to Chilli.

  • David P. Jordan

    Cooperation with BNSF is required, and BNSF doesn’t want passenger trains on the Chillicothe Sub (unless Amtrak has to detour due to a freight derailment on the Mendota Sub).

  • vonster

    Aww…they don’t want. Is that a real choice??

  • vonster

    That is a double track main line. I have spent hours & hours at Edelstein. It’s not THAT busy as to not handle a couple Amtrak trains a day.

  • David P. Jordan

    The problems start when you have 79mph passenger trains needing to overtake numerous 70mph priority intermodal trains. A potential station stop at Streator might force the railroad to hold some trains. BNSF’s Chillicothe Subdivision is very busy (depending on the time of day, day of week and time of year), and while I think they could accommodate four Amtrak trains a day between a new connection at Chillicothe and the existing route (CN) at Joliet, BNSF doesn’t want them. And it is their choice whether to allow them or now.

  • vonster

    I still think they could handle it with no problem.

  • All good dialogue. Just show me where the money will be coming from and the cost of buying, building and maintance when Illinois will soon be bankrupt and the cities and counties aren’t exactly flush. The entry places would need large parking lots and transportation to your destination. Riders would need to leave when the the trains runs. A short run from Peoria to Blomington would be another boondoggle.

    I believe politicians in Bloomington-Normal realize the connection is another fairy tale like the notorious “Peoria highway to Chicago” that never had a chance of becoming a reality.

    Remember, dreams can be very costly to lower to middle class people who pay the most taxes. Other than the wealthy who can afford to pay more taxes.

  • Martin Palmer

    Merle:”where the money will be coming from”? Federal printing press…. Not a problem ,just print it up. No spending problems there as for the state of Illinois, sell off the state offices to the feds and have our first non state,state . Super sized Unigov.

  • FUNNY: From Merle: “Remember, dreams can be very costly to lower to middle class people who pay the most taxes. Other than the wealthy who can afford to pay more taxes.”

    This coming from a guy who wanted Mitt in office so the wealthy could pay less taxes because they are the job creators and need to pay less taxes, and could care less how much the middle income paid in taxes. Change of heart Merle?

  • Emtronics, no change of heart. IF you read my blogs and were better informed, I blogged “none of the Republicans could win”. I specifically said Romney couldn’t win. Still, I would have supported ANY Republican over the liar we now have as “president”.

  • Liar? Explain please. Nice respect for the office Merle. Bush lied. WMDs ring a bell?

  • Martin Palmer

    Emtronics: Fast and Furious began under the Obama administration, dating its inception to October 2009. (Obama took office in January 2009.) This directly contradicts Obama’s claim.Obama tried to blame Bush. And still does. So that explains .

  • It did start under Bush in 2006 and was called Project Gun Runner. Obama didn’t dream this up. No doubt Obama allowed it to continue but it was a Republican idea to begin with. Please do something rare and read on it. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.....ng_scandal)

    Before you start on the Benghazi attack. Remember 11 Embassies were attacked under the Bush watch and 53 dead. Where is the phoney outrage for this?

    Then let’s go with Iraq HAS WMDs. They didn’t. We will be greeted as liberators. We weren’t. The war is in it’s last throws. It wasn’t. So you see, we are used to lies and I have yet to see one from the Obama Administration or anything close to the lies we as Amereicans were told during 8 long years of the Bush Administration.

  • The lies started

    well before applying to college as a foreign-born national and will extend beyond his rhetoric about caring for the children as he saddles our youth with trillions of indebtedness and no growth to show for it. Bush was a dim bulb, but this guy is doing serious permanent damage.

  • There were no WMDs. You can Google all day and find conspiracy nuts who claim they were shuffled out or buried in the sand. Of course you can find out 9/11 was a government planned attack on ourselves. The point is, YOU CAN”T FIX STUPID.

    Please enlighten how when the “dim bulb” left office with the country in the ditch and hiding $4 trillion in war debt + interest how Obama is causing permanent damage? Please cite something that will be permanent. Please anything. Instead of parroting Fox talking points or even Limbaugh’s, tell us what damage this President has done and why you didn’t speak up during the 8 years of Bush and ask about the damage he caused?

    Oh and the link provided? Did you read it? We went to war and killed millions, had thousands of our troops killed, spent BILLIONS over a couple of wagon loads of what may or may not be considered illegal chemical weapons parts? What about the enriched uranium Powell and Bush spoke about at the UN and to the American public. Please, stop defending this Texas goof ball.

  • There you have

    it. Emtronics is unfixable, based on his own observations. We don’t need more socialists in government, we need leaders. Unfortunately the voters in the first don’t have a choice for even one.

  • Name a Socialist in government? Not Obama. If he is, he is the worse Socialist ever. More stupidity from Fox talking points. Again, YOU CAN’T FIX STUPID. That last comment proved my point. What’s next? The President is a Kenyan?

    BTW, I’m no more Socialist than the Man in the Moon. I just don’t buy into the Right’s propaganda and believe sick people shouldn’t have to give up their homes for an illness or poor people should starve in the richest country on Earth while the wealthy take huge bonuses and vacation in various homes and pay little to no taxes.

  • David P. Jordan

    Wow…so off topic! But I have to say to Emtronics that cotswold9′s link is from the U. S. Department of Defense. We did, in fact, find WMD’s in Iraq, just not the way most everyone expected.

    Emtronics likes to make up his own facts. But here are the true facts: Obama voted for Bush’s last budget, voted for the bank bailout and the stimulus, then increased spending by at least several departments. His economic illiteracy has extended the poor economy through his first term, and it even contracted in the 4th Qtr. of 2012. It’s disheartening that failed presidents can get re-elected now. As for tha national debt, check this out…

    http://www.treasurydirect.gov/.....ication=np

    …to see how the debt stood on January 20, 2001 ($5,727,776,738,304.64) January 20, 2009 ($10,626,877,048,913.08) and how it stands today, just four years later ($16,494,367,339,423.66). So it increased just less than $5 tillion under Bush’s eight years and has increased nearly $6 trillion in Obama’s first four years.

    Obviously, entitlements that pre-date both Bush and Obama are partly responsible for this increase in debt, but Obama’s poor economic record and spending habits can be blamed for the spike in deficit spending during his term of office.

    Time to get the facts, Emtronics.

  • Those aren’t the facts Jordon. Those are the made up numbers Fox likes to use. It was only a few months back that the Repubs were saying why hasn’t Obama submitted a budget? Because everything Obama submits is rejected by the Repubs. The economy is humming along, people are buying and houses are up again. We are in now ay as bad as we were when Bush left office. Keep up the good work Jordon. I’ll say it again, You can’t fix stupid.

  • oh and by the way, $4 trillion of that increase is because Obama had the interest from the Bush wars, which Bush hid from the national debt, added back into the nation debt. No sense lying anymore to the public like Bush/Cheney

  • cotswold9

    David, Em is only concerned with a fully fueled rocket with an armed warhead and Saddam Hussein with his thumb on the launch button – anything else is considered non threatning/or merely a circumstantial event.

    If he saw three piles of the below chemicals sitting around he would not consider it a hazard.

    Saltpetre
    Charcoal
    Sulphur

    (components of gun powder when combined)

  • Really? You are laughable.

  • Ok citswold9 and Jordan. What you saying is this: That Iraq did have the WMDs, they were found and the war was justified as Powell, Rice, Bush, and Cheney all told the truth despite what 80% of Americans think today, we were not lied too and those soldiers didn’t die in vain. Is that correct?

    LMAOROTF

  • There were chemical weapons found (thank you, Wikileaks):

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroo.....g-results/

    But whether that justified the war is a different question.

    In any case, I can’t reconcile Emtronics’ simultaneous belief that Bush was a “dim bulb,” yet was able to pull off the biggest deception of the decade, bamboozling the joint chiefs, the mass media, Great Britain, Spain, Australia, several other allies, both houses of Congress (including those on the intelligence committee), the American public, and the U.N. That’s quite a feat for a “dim bulb.”

    My own belief is that the intelligence on WMDs in Iraq was plausible at the time, and so the president acted on it. Why did he act instead of showing more restraint? Because we had just come out of 9/11 and he was getting heavily criticized for not “connecting the dots” on intelligence reports leading up to those attacks. I think that predisposed him to act preemptively on future intelligence. I offer that opinion not as justification for his actions, but only as a plausible explanation of his actions. No one knows what really went on in his mind at the time except him. But I find the conspiracy theory that Bush was somehow able to deceive the whole world single-handedly into thinking Iraq had WMDs thoroughly untenable.

  • AuntiEm

    Well said CJ. Emtronics guzzles the kool-aid served up by the left-wing lame-stream media that he conversely accuses conservatives of with Fox News.

  • Cheney led Bush by the nose. Therefore CJ is right in that everyone wanted a head, anyone’s head as revenge for 9/11 (which happened on the Bush watch) so people want the government to act. Bomb anyone, just someone no matter who.

    Still, there were no WMDs in Iraq other than the left over chemical weapons we knew about that we sold them years earlier. To me, Bush was looking for an excuse to go into Iraq because of the failed assassination attack on his daddy which was linked to Iraq. This just made it easy and Cheney pulled the strings. Bush couldn’t tie his shoes on his own. But for the sake of CJ, let’s just say he was a real intelligent wizard for pulling off the biggest hoax ever. Then that makes Obama and his world domination and re-election despite the Right’s claims of Socialist, a brain surgeon.

  • David P. Jordan

    David, Em is only concerned with a fully fueled rocket with an armed warhead and Saddam Hussein with his thumb on the launch button – anything else is considered non threatning/or merely a circumstantial event.

    No, he would have been gung ho about Iraq if Obama was president then. The lecturer-in-chief can do no wrong. Funny how Em supported Obama’s Libya adventure in 2011. When since the chickens came home to roost on September 11, 2012, he resorts to the tired “Remember 11 Embassies were attacked under the Bush watch and 53 dead,” line.

    In truth, all embassies are vulnerable, and most of the Bush era attacks occured in war zones or nations known for anti-western violence. I don’t believe one American was killed in either incident. The difference with Benghazi is that Ambassador Stevens pleaded for increased security and was rebuffed. But if Em’s going to use that, then perhaps he should be reminded that Al-Qaida bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Uganda on August 7, 1998 resulted in more than 200 killed and 4000+ wounded. Clinton, not Bush, was president then.

    But back to topic, perhaps Peoria’s concerned citizens need to make a concerted effort to stop this silly [East] Peoria – Bloomington rail shuttle concept. It should be same-train [East] Peoria – Chicago service or not at all.

  • Jordan, you are simply nuts. You have no idea how I feel or what I think. Obama wouldn’t have invaded the wrong country. I’m glad I live in your head. Plenty of room. LMAO

  • 53 dead 11 embassies attacked and no outrage from the Right. Idiots.

  • Debt -

    Interest on government debt this year is around $360 Billion and interest rates are at historical lows. Emtronics contention of trillions hidden by Bush makes me wonder if Emtronics isn’t really Rachel Madows closet penis. Flacid at best. He lives the life of shrinkage according to Costanza.

  • Topic @ hand

    What is the price point at which multiple types of family “units” would travel to a FINAL chicago destination and be able to return in a way that suited their diverse needs(no weekend cab rides – but hitting all the necessary spots) cost effectively?

  • Topic @ hand

    If you can’t answer that, you can’t rationally advocate for rail. Especially with electric and nat gas close at hand.

  • David P. Jordan

    Jordan, you are simply nuts.

    Busted! For ahwile now, Em, you’ve espoused your thoughts and feelings about politics in public forums. Everyone knows how you think and feel.

    Obama wouldn’t have invaded the wrong country.

    So which is the right country? Hmmm?

  • It wasn’t Iraq. Yes I am sorry to say I am not a part of the old white man Party, the GOP, who thinks rape victims have a way to prevent babies. I went with the majority of the country both times and voted and support our President. I don’t buy any of your arguments and can put up graphs and figures disputing you all day. I’ll never change your mind because you have to have one. Yes, all over the forums you know how I feel. I disagree with everything the nuts on the Right want. I long for the old Conservative party of the Reagan years but they are gone. So, when I disagree I am call ed penis by a low life chicken shit hiding behind a keyboard. I will give you this Jordan. I know you and you know me. We have met, in a church. I respect your opinions and love your railroad topics but I think you are wrong at least you don’t hide behind a keyboard. Enough…Good day

  • Martin Palmer

    Wow
    Kool-aid overdose. Take two Clinton’s and bedrest.

  • Dennis in Peoria

    In reviewing the comments here (minus the Iraq debate), I originally thought a Peoria to Normal rail would be nice. But now, I think we should push for a Peoria to Chicago connection. Since both my daughters attended ISU, driving to Normal theses days seems like nothing, almost like driving from Pekin to Chillicothe. You get on the I-74, put on some music, chat if you have a passenger, and next thing you know, you’re there.

    So let’s find a way to make a Peoria to Chicago Amtrak happen. It will cost a lot, and it won’t be easy with the GOP demanding cuts to children and elderly programs to pay for additional ships, bombs,drones and tanks we won’t or don’t need anymore.