Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chicago Bypass Revisited, Again

Doug Hefty posted
The ROCK on the NYC!
Chicago Rock Island & Pacific 114 (F7A) with New York Central freight at North Judson, Ind. on November 25, 1966 
A Roger Puta Photograph
The comments in Doug's posting confirm that RI and NYC used to bypass Chicago by using NYC's Kankakee Belt Route. I'm revisiting this topic to 1) use a nice picture by Roger (that illustrates that the sky doesn't always have to be blue for a nice photo), 2) save access to the comments and 3) I have noticed that my postings concerning abandoned routes that today would be useful as bypasses have higher view counts than most of the other postings. So I'm going to summarize what I have already said about bypassing Chicago.

The Kankakee Belt was originally known as the Chicago, Indiana and Southern Railroad and was created from a truncation of the Indiana, Illinois & Iowa (3I) and the northern end of the Egyptian route. Even though the Kankakee Belt abandoned the western end of the 3I, it still crossed the Illinois River and reached the IAIS/Rock Island and BNSF/CB&Q. I checked my SPV Map to see who abandoned the bridge and thus the connections to IAIS and BNSF --- Penn Central or Conrail, but it doesn't label that dotted line. This is one of the few omissions that I have encountered on those maps. The eastern end between Wheatfield and South Bend was abandoned by Conrail. If that route was retained, it would be a short ride to the NS hump yard in Elkhart, IN on the former NYC mainline. Currently, the BNSF->NS traffic on the former Santa Fe route does bypass Chicago by interchanging with NS/Kankakee Belt in Streator, IL. These bypass trains have to turn north at the center of the Kankakee Belt "cross" at Schneider, IN because of the abandonment of the eastern route and so they still contend with many closely spaced grade level crossings and train traffic in northeastern Indiana.

The Kankakee and Seneca is another lost bypass option. But IAIS probably were prefer the western end of the Kankakee Belt even if they loose some haulage distance so that they could avoid having to deal with the poorly maintained CSX part of the former Rock Island. And the K&S cannot be economically built further north to interchange with other western railroads because of a tall river bluff in that area. The IAIS currently runs its NS-destined trains south to Peoria, IL, for interchange.

Looking at the Great Lakes Basin RR map, it appears as though they plan to use the Seneca area bridge. That makes me wonder if they have driven their proposed route or even looked at a topology map. They would be better off continuing south along I-39 and using IC's old bridge because it is bluff-to-bluff and high enough that it is not interrupted by barge traffic. The current owner is PVTX, and they have done a good job maintaining the bridge. The use of this bridge would also avoid having to build a bridge over the Fox River. Unfortunately, they would have to cross I-39 to get to that bridge. So it maybe cheaper to use the proposed route after all. For $8billion you might be able to build your own bluff-to-bluff bridge near Seneca.

I noticed the railport east of I-57 on their map. The NIMBYers along I-57 have already help kill a 3rd airport and a new Indiana/Illinois expressway to divert traffic off of I-80. I'll bet they won't be too happy with a railport either.

Last night I came across a posting that indicates the GLBT has proposed an alternate route. There is remarkably little information in the article. Basically it quotes various NIMBYers who do not want it to be built. But I did find it interesting that an environmental impact statement that is supposed to pay attention to 1000's of comments will take a few years to produce. Maybe CREATE (and postings with the label CREATE) can be finished in that time period making GLBT obsolete. (The current drop in coal and oil shipments has already decreased congestion, but let us assume rail traffic will rebound in the future.) If someone can find $8B to build a sixth beltway, why can't someone find the $2B needed to finish CREATE, which includes several road/rail grade separations? It also appears that in Jan 2015, several railroad executives toured the Chicago area looking for better routes through and/or around Chicago.

Update: Great Lakes Basin RR (GLBR) has proposed a third routing.

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