NORMAL — The next phase of high-speed rail work is expected to start in September or October and could mean some temporary crossing closings.
The work will include upgrading the "siding" tracks in Normal, McLean and Lexington, said Scott Speegle, passenger rail marketing manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation. The tracks allow two trains to be at the same location at the same time.
In Normal, there is a siding track at Uptown Station which would allow one train to be stopped at the station and another train to pass.
Speegle and other IDOT representatives hosted a public informational meeting Tuesday on the next phase of work at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.
In addition to track work, Speegle said crews will be improving crossings for greater safety. Four-quad gates — two gate arms on each side of the tracks — will be installed at crossings along the corridor to prevent vehicles from trying to drive around a gate. Pedestrian gates will be installed to stop pedestrians from walking on the tracks when a train is coming.
Speegle said if a pedestrian is on the tracks when the gates come down, the gate can be pushed open so the person can exit. Fencing also will be put up to funnel pedestrians to the cross walk to limit trespassing onto the tracks.
A "positive train control" also will be installed in the pad in the middle of crossing.
"If a vehicle is stuck on the tracks, it sends a signal to the train warning them," he said.
If the train engineer doesn't respond and the signal continues, Speegle said the control causes the train to shut down.
Speegle said the work will continue until winter weather sets in and then resume next spring, with completion next summer. Similar work will take place on other stretches of the high-speed rail corridor from Joliet to Carlinville.
By 2015, trains will be able to travel 115 mph on that route, cutting a half-hour off the current time for that stretch, he said.
The next phase of work will focus on improvements on the Carlinville to Alton route. Speegle said that work should be completed by 2017, cutting another half-hour off the current time.
Meanwhile, environmental studies are underway on improvements on the Joliet to Chicago and Granite City to St. Louis stretches, Speegle said. Funding has yet to be secured for that phase of work.