The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT), with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) evaluated alternatives for the reestablishment of passenger rail service between Chicago, Illinois, and Iowa City, Iowa, as part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI). The MWRRI is an initiative of nine Midwest states and Amtrak to establish an intercity passenger rail system in the Midwest with Chicago acting as the hub. The intercity passenger rail system would contain a series of high speed and conventional speed rail corridors providing land-based connectivity between the major Midwest population centers.
The Iowa DOT prepared a Tier 1 Service Level Environmental Assessment (EA) to establish the need for the project and select a service corridor to connect the two cities. The Tier 1 EA identified the necessary Tier 2 Project Level documentation required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to complete the Preliminary Engineering phase. Development of the Tier 2 documentation was separated between the states with Illinois taking responsibility for necessary improvements to implement passenger rail service between Chicago and the Moline Multimodal Station in the Quad Cities.
Prairie Engineers of Illinois served as the environmental lead for the Project Management Consulting (PMC) team on behalf of IDOT and was responsible for preparation of the Tier 2 NEPA documents in the Chicago to Moline corridor. The service line will travel at a maximum speed of 79 miles per hour (mph) and include intermediate stops in LaGrange, Naperville, Plano, Mendota, Princeton, and Geneseo, Illinois, using approximately 110 miles of BNSF Railway and 50 miles of Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS). The NEPA processing required three Tier 2 documents: a Categorical Exclusion (CE) from Chicago to the Wyanet Connection track; a CE for the Wyanet Connection Track (creating a new interlocking between the BNSF and IAIS railroads); and an EA for the improvements from the Wyanet Connection Track to the Moline Layover Facility located west of the Moline Multimodal Station.
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