Commuter-rail boosters want to update plan


Proposed service line using LaSalle Street as the northern terminus. Credit: METRA/SCRTD

by Dennis Sullivan
May 6, 2014

Proponents of the SouthEast Service commuter rail line are putting out a call for engineering-planning consultants to update current studies that could include the possibility of Metra’s Randolph Street Station serving as the northern terminus.

This morning the Southeast Commuter Rail Transit District notified approximately 36 planning and engineering companies of its intention to update and expand research related to the proposed line connecting Balmoral Racing Park in Crete with METRA’s LaSalle Street Station in Chicago.

Areas of concern arising since 2012 include potential competing uses of the LaSalle Street station as the northern terminus, potential conflicts with increased freight traffic and METRA’s tradition of funding existing lines and stations before funding new developments.

The notification, emailed by SCRTD officials, describes the work as:

  • Reviewing, evaluating and updating the AA rail freight and passenger operations simulation model and assumptions;
  • Preparing a capacity plan document to serve as the basis for preliminary engineering;
  • Developing an investment-grade ridership and ticket revenue forecasting model;
  • Preparing a system-level risk assessment of previous capital and operating cost estimates; and
  • Preparing a user-benefits report of the build alternative using the FTA’s SUMMIT analysis program or approved equal.
Map shows METRA stations. Credit: METRA

Map shows METRA stations. Credit: METRA

METRA completed a Local Alternative Analysis in 2012 identifying transportation issues, defining the purpose and need for improvements, and developing and evaluating bus transportation and other potential alternative solutions.

That study found the 33-mile commuter rail line would best serve the 0 “corridor”¬†communities. The study estimates construction costs at $778 million in 2010 dollars and annual operating and maintenance costs at $28.2 million in 2010 dollars.

METRA staff has since suggested the SouthEast Service’s use of the LaSalle Street Station might conflict with plans for its use as the northern terminus for:

  • A high-speed rail service between Chicago and St. Louis and
  • The SouthWest Service, which currently uses Union Station as its northern terminus.

In March, SCRTD members approved a $650,000 budget for 2014 that will prepare the proposed rail line plan for the project’s engineering phase.

The consultants, who previously indicated an interest in the project, have until Friday to respond they are interested in being considered for the job.

Original material copyright 2014 Eastern Will County News; all rights reserved.

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