The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) plans to carry out crossing upgrades this year as it prepares to provide high-speed rail passenger service between Chicago and St. Louis by 2017.
About 20 crossing safety upgrades between East St. Louis and Carlinville are planned. Among the upgrades are ensuring that crossings have four gates instead of two to prevent vehicles from weaving through crossings when the gates are down. Most crossings have one bar on each side so people can weave through if they are determined not to wait.
IDOT is also putting in fencing to keep pedestrians out of the right of way as well as a positive train control system. The system sends a signal to an operator of an oncoming train if there is a vehicle at a crossing, so the operator can slow down and stop the train.
Illinois hopes to have construction of a high-speed rail completed by 2017. The corridor will allow trains to run between St. Louis and Chicago at 110 mph. In addition, the program includes safety improvements at crossings as well as building new or improving stations throughout the corridor, according to IDOT officials.
The improvements are expected to help with reliability, and reduce the trip between Chicago and St. Louis from 5.5 hours to 4.5 hours.
Part of the project includes adding more siding tracks, where trains could pull off to the side without stopping while allowing another train to pass. This allows the Union Pacific tracks to be shared between freight and passenger trains.
The upgrades for the corridor are costing about $1.95 billion, and are being paid for with mostly federal dollars. Illinois has committed $300 million toward the project.