NORMAL — A federal grant will help bring a new high-speed monorail system to Illinois State, transportation officials announced Wednesday, making the already compact campus a little smaller.
The grant is part of a pilot program to introduce new modes of mass transit to college towns. Illinois State will use the $13.3 million received from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation (U.S. BOT) to connect Stevenson Hall with the Watterson Dining Commons.
“Illinois State’s campus in Normal is an ideal site to pilot our high-speed monorail program,” said Doug Ames, senior undersecretary for the U.S. BOT. “Today’s student expects all of the bells and whistles in transportation options. As the finished product will include both bells and whistles, we are sure our target market will be pleased.”
Currently, it takes approximately 5 minutes to walk from Watterson to Stevenson. However, a survey of more than 2,000 students last spring revealed that time can unexpectedly increase by as much as 40 percent.
“I typically plan on needing about 4 minutes to get from Stevenson to Watterson around lunchtime,” said Lyle Lanley, sophomore domestic business major. “But it can take much longer if I have to tie my shoes or stop to look at the squirrels. It completely throws my entire schedule off.”
Understanding the value of students being able to optimize their time inside and outside of the classroom, university administrators are already making plans to offer amenities and services students have come to expect from Illinois State.
“The distance between Stevenson Hall and the Watterson Dining Commons is 310 feet,” said Julia Smith, commute manager for Illinois State. “The train will be 295 feet, offering not only seating for the trip between destinations, but a plethora of other services designed for students on the go.”
Plans call for the inclusion of a car that will provide study space, an observation car, and office space for academic advisors.
“If ISU is students’ home away from home, we want them to consider the high-speed monorail to be their home away from their home away from home,” Smith said. “The dining car will be operated by Campus Dining, and will still feature home-style favorites, brick-oven pizzas, gluten-free options, and make-your-own Panini stations. Including study space reaffirms the University’s commitment to education, no matter the setting.”
Students are already excited at the prospect.
“I’m really looking forward to the observation car,” Lanley said. “There’s a lot of great scenery between Stevenson and Watterson, and this way I won’t have to miss a thing.”
Construction is slated to begin in fall 2015 and end in spring 2020. The high-speed monorail has been known to reach speeds in excess of 125 mph, though Illinois State’s train is unlikely to reach that speed in the 15 feet it will travel between destinations.
To learn more, visit HighSpeed.IllinoisState.edu.