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The seven-year, $2 billion project to prepare a high-speed passenger-rail route between Chicago and St. Louis is in its final months, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).IDOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn told the The State Journal-Register this week that he expects the project — to upgrade track, grade crossings and technology to allow high-speed Amtrak trains on the corridor — will be completed on time and on budget.Federal funding is paying $1.6 billion of the estimated $1.95 billion final cost. The state of Illinois is expected to cover about $300 million.Amtrak service traveling at 90 mph on the corridor should begin in summer 2018. Travel at 110 mph should be ready to begin in 2019, pending installation of automated train-control and detection technology required for faster train service, the newspaper reported. IDOT posted the article on its website.The project was launched to reduce the entire five-and-a-half-hour train journal from Chicago to St. Louis by about an hour. The entire 284-mile route from Chicago to St. Louis will feature eight stations, including new ones in Dwight, Pontiac, Carlinville and Alton. Crews will rehabilitate or enhance existing stations in Normal, Lincoln and Springfield.The state has taken delivery of 33 new locomotives and 88 rail cars are on order.
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