The Midwest HSR Association has long been a Chicago-Centric organization, which is fitting because for many of the urban areas in the nine states that are members of the “Midwest Regional Rail Initiative” intercity rail planning organization, Chicago is included among their top three to five intercity travel destinations.
With the Cross-Rail Chicago proposal, the Midwest HSR Association is proposing to start building from the inside out, providing a set of profits in the Chicago Area that will then provide the through-Chicago system for intercity rail avoiding the difficult “last mile” problem that the California HSR has to tackle in getting into downtown San Francisco and to Los Angeles Union Station. The proposed project proceeds in phases, with each phase addressing a Chicago regional transport need, even as the total project provides the infrastructure that 110mph and 125mph Rapid Passenger Intercity Rail and 220mph “bullet train” HSR can use to connect to Chicago Union Station and O’Hare International Airport.
The phases are:
- Expanding Union Station, making use of two existing through tracks and reconstructing unused mail platforms for passenger use;
- Union Station to O’Hare, reconstructing Metra’s “Milwaukee West” district and building a short section of new rail, initially to a station connecting to the “ATS” people mover extension to the new rental car facility, and eventually via underground stations connecting directly to the O’Hare terminals;
- Reconstructing the St. Charles Air Line elevated tracks along 16th Street to connect the Union Station through tracks to Metra’s Electric and Rock Island Corridors south of Union Station;
- With I-90 extensions northwest of O’Hare to Elgin, and then to Rockford Illinois;
- With I-56 extensions south of the 16th Street Connector to University Park, and then to Kankakee and Champaign
The Midwest HSR Association’s indicative cost estimate for this project is $9.6b, with the Phase One from the 16th Street Connector through Union Station to the O’Hare Transfer Station estimated at $2b.