Amtrak trains between Chicago and St. Louis could be traveling at 110 mph on portions of the corridor as early as 2012. This fall work crews began upgrading an initial 90 miles of track between Alton and Lincoln as the first step in a series of $1.2 billion ARRA-funded improvements. A Cooperative Agreement between the State of Illinois, Union Pacific Railroad, and Amtrak announced on December 22 will ensure work continues next year as crews move north from Lincoln to Dwight.
The improvements – which include new locomotives and passenger cars, rebuilding of track, additional signaling devices at grade crossings, and implementation of state-of-the-art signal technology – will enable trains on the route to operate at speeds up to 110 mph.
The Cooperative Agreement calls for a total of five daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis, including three daily 110-mph round trips (out of a total five round trips) in the initial 2014 schedule, and confirms on-time performance expectations of at least 80 percent for the service. Expected reductions in travel time of as much as 48 minutes between Chicago and St. Louis are also noted in the agreement, shortening the trip between the two cities to as little as 4 hours, 32 minutes.
"This Cooperative Agreement is a major step forward in the development of our Midwest passenger rail network," said Richard Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. "It establishes the guidelines for increasing speeds and improving the on-time performance of passenger trains on freight-owned corridors."
Construction began in September on the 90-mile segment that extends from just north of Alton to south of Springfield and on the 30-mile segment just north of Springfield to south of Lincoln. The project was almost completed before shutting down for the winter. Work will resume in early spring to finish the remaining portion of track just south of Lincoln. Meanwhile, a study is currently being conducted to determine the best route through Springfield.
With the full Cooperative Agreement now in place, construction will also continue in spring from just south of Lincoln to Dwight. This phase of work is expected to conclude next fall. The next step will then be the installation of new, enhanced grade crossing warning protection.
According to Joe Shacter, Director of Public and Intermodal Transportation, Illinois DOT, trains are expected to run at 110 mph on a segment of the corridor between Dwight and Pontiac as early as 2012. By 2014, trains should be running at 110 mph from Dwight all the way to Alton.
In a joint statement in January, Quinn and US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said, “Illinois was one of only three states to be awarded more than one billion dollars in funding from the federal government’s total nationwide investment of $8 billion. This is a massive investment into the future of transportation. It is seventeen times more funding than the federal government has invested into passenger rail over the last ten years combined.”