High-speed rail effort planned

The Illinois Department of Transportation has announced that the state has taken the next step to purchase approximately 35 high-performance diesel-electric locomotives for several Midwestern and West Coast states using funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The department has issued a notice of intent to award to Siemens USA a contract to design, build and deliver the locomotives on behalf of the transportation departments of Illinois, California, Michigan, Washington and Missouri. Illinois is leading the procurement effort.

The new locomotives will achieve a maximum speed of 125 mph and meet new Federal Tier 4 emissions standards. The notice of intent means that a potential vendor has been identified. A contract must still be awarded before the purchase can proceed.

The Federal Railroad Administration allocated $808 million to fund the manufacture of the next generation of passenger rail equipment, including approximately 35 new locomotives and 130 bi-level rail cars. The locomotives will meet the standards developed by Amtrak, states, the railroad administration and rail industry experts under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

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

Amtrak began the first 110-mile-per-hour service segment outside the Northeast Corridor between Chicago and Detroit in early 2012. The Chicago-Detroit corridor features an 80-mile segment of track where trains are running up to 110 miles per hour, and by 2015 trains on nearly 80 percent of the corridor will be able to operate at that speed.

Illinois debuted 110-mile-per-hour service on a 15-mile segment of the Chicago-Saint Louis corridor from Dwight to Pontiac in November of 2012, and IDOT is working to ensure that all needed track and crossing improvements are completed in order to expand the service to about 75 percent of the corridor by 2017.

In December, the Federal Railroad Administration provided a record of decision on the entire Chicago-Saint Louis corridor allowing Illinois to begin analysis on moving toward high-performance service on the other 25 percent of the corridor as soon as possible.

"We are taking another major step forward in this tremendous effort that will create jobs and provide better, faster passenger service," Governor Pat Quinn said. "We are proud to lead the multi-state procurement effort for these machines and look forward to the day when they will be pulling high-speed passenger trains through Illinois."

"This award creates jobs, spurs economic growth and further lays the foundation for a sustainable, long-term passenger rail network in the United States," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "We’re proud to make investments in the next generation of passenger locomotives that will be built in the United States by the hands of American workers and will provide faster, safer and more reliable intercity passenger service."

The locomotives and all of their component parts will be built in the United States, likely in Sacramento, Calif.

"This will not only create jobs but create pride in the fact that these high performance diesel-electric locomotives will be made right here on American soil," Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said. "We are excited to have moved one step closer in this process and thrilled to be leading this multi-state procurement and securing Illinois’ role as a national leader in high-speed rail."

"We are extremely proud to have been selected as a rolling stock partner to help bring the next era of passenger rail service to Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, California and Washington State," said Siemens Rail Systems president Michael Cahill said. "Leveraging Siemens’ proven rail expertise and technology, we look forward to building the most energy-efficient, advanced technology, diesel-electric locomotives in North America at our solar-powered transportation manufacturing facility in Sacramento."