Railroads: Illinois' future and Wicker Park's history


IDOT provided this rendering of a concept car for the high-speed lines

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) named Illinois to lead the multi-state procurement of next-generation locomotives for high-speed rail, Governor Pat Quinn announced Thurs., Mar. 21. Future railroad success ties to Wicker Park's history. 

“The decision by the federal government is a testament to Illinois’ role as a national leader in high-speed rail,” said Quinn. “This important multi-state procurement is a key to success for high-speed rail throughout the nation, and I have directed my administration to move forward quickly.” 

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will lead the effort to procure at least 35 next-generation diesel locomotives for high-speed passenger trains on behalf of five states: Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington. 

The FRA has allocated $808 million to build the next generation of passenger rail equipment, including 35 new locomotives and 130 bi-level rail cars. As lead agency, IDOT will manage and oversee the procurement, involve the other states in planning and implementing the procurement process, develop a detailed project plan, and coordinate the review of the procurement among the involved states and FRA. 

Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann L. Schneider said. “Our goal is to offer 110-mile-per-hour service on at least 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor – the segment from Dwight to Alton – by the end of 2015, and these locomotives are the key to achieving that goal. It takes time to build these complex and powerful engines, however, and we are moving quickly to get this procurement under way as soon as possible.” 

Last year, IDOT was part of a multi-state procurement of the 130 next-generation bi-level rail cars for high-speed service, an effort led by the state of California. That procurement resulted in the selection of Nippon-Sharyo, which is building the rail cars from its plant in Rochelle, Illinois, including the 88 cars to be used on Midwest high-speed corridors. 

Illinois debuted 110-mph service on a 15-mile segment of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor from Dwight to Pontiac in fall 2012. IDOT is working with the private railroads and FRA to ensure that positive train control requirements and all needed track and crossing improvements are completed in order to expand 110-mph service as much as possible in the years ahead. 

The FRA in December provided a Record of Decision on the entire Chicago-St. Louis corridor, allowing Illinois to begin in-depth corridor segment studies and specific project studies to move toward high-speed service on the other 25 percent of the corridor as soon as possible, including segments from Joliet to Chicago and from Alton to St. Louis. The segment from Dwight to Joliet is under development and is expected to offer 110-mph service in 2017.

Illinois also is working in close partnership with the state of Michigan to establish 110-mph service from Chicago to Detroit as the next Midwest segment targeted to run at higher speeds. 

Wicker Park History
"The advent of the railroad turned Chicago into a transportation hub with ten trunk lines, by 1856."* The first industry in Wicker Park came in in 1857, when the Rolling Mills steel works opened its doors north of North and east of Ashland. This factory re-rolled iron railroad tracks and is said to have made the first Bessemer steel rail in the country in 1865."* 

That industry resulted in the development of the northeast corner of the area up around Cortland Ave. which became an Irish based community. 

*Wicker Park from 1673 through 1929 and walking Tour Guide, Elaine A. Coorens  



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