Construction of High Speed Rail from Chicago to St. Louis: How Safe (or Dangerous) Is It? Railroad Dangers Are Real.


Construction of High Speed Rail from Chicago to St. Louis: How Safe (or Dangerous) Is It? Railroad Dangers Are Real.

Right now, money is still being put together to pay for the planned high speed rail system that will serve the 284 mile Chicago – St. Louis Corridor.  Moreover, there’s still lots of chatter about making things even bigger: this week, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced it wants to add more trips between Joliet and St. Louis, for example, which means more tracks.  Two tracks instead of one.

Corridor Tracks Divided Up Between Railroad Companies

Already, various railroad companies have divied things up: Canadian National (CN) has two tracks already set along its section of the corridor (Joliet – Chicago); Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) has one track in place between between Joliet and Godfrey. In a section that UPRR shares with Kansas City Southern (KCS), one track is set for 10 miles, and then two tracks are ready along another 19 miles. Meanwhile, the Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA) is getting ready for tracks along its 3 mile portion of the Corridor, going over the Mississippi River Bridge and into the St. Louis Terminal.

The High Speed Rail Project has been designed to take some of the travel burden from the cars and planes that currently serve as transportation between Chicago and St. Louis (well, 99% anyway). The goal is to construct two tracks along the Corridor. It’s believed that the new High-Speed Rail will reduce vehicle miles by 1.3 million miles.

What exactly will the High Speed Rail Project do?

From the IDOT website, the following description of these fast trains is given:

IDOT is taking an incremental approach to implementing high-speed rail in the state, similar to how many European countries have implemented high-speed rail service. The 110 miles per hour service on the corridor has the necessary environmental documents, and construction began on September 1, 2010. The public will get first glimpse of 110 mph passenger service between Dwight and Pontiac as early as 2012. IDOT embraces the idea that a network of different but connecting rail services operating at up to both 110 miles per hour and 220 miles per hour may best serve the state’s travel and economic development needs. IDOT recently submitted a grant application to the Federal Railroad Administration for an Alternative Analysis and environmental studies for 220 miles per hour service. However, the application was not selected for funding. Trains operating at 220 miles per hour will be subject to a higher level of safety standards which require grade separations for any rail/highway crossings, dedicated right-of-way and fencing. The development of such a system will take a considerable length of time.

Railroads Are Dangerous — Risk of Serious Personal Injury or Death Now and Later

Railroads, normal ones much less these fancy 220 mph speed demon trains, are dangerous.  Construction of railroads is very risky and workers get seriously injured in the building of these things.  Moreover, once they are built, railway workers are at risk for severe injuries and even death just by doing their work, on the job at the railroad.

Railway workers can be seriously injured from things like equipment failure, driver mistakes or human error, improper supervision, and countless other things.  In fact, it’s so dangerous to work on any railway (much less High Speed Rail) that special federal laws have been passed to protect railroad workers, e.g., The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).

Finally, there are all sorts of dangers to the public at large from railroads:  crossings are extremely dangerous in the best of conditions.

Last year, for example, a tragedy that struck a high speed train in Spain was used as an example by local experts of what can happen here, with the proposed new High Speed Rail project.  There, a group of folk tried to run across some tracks after they got off a train, and were crushed to death under the wheels of one of these speeding express trains.

The sad reality is that people are going to be injured or killed from High Speed Rail here — history proves it’s a question of when, not if; therefore, safety concerns should be paramount here as the designs are being nailed down and the budgets are being discussed.  This project needs to be as safe as it can be, from planning stages on paper through actual High Speed Rail use in the years to come.

After all, our family and friends are depending on it.

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