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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced late last week a $102 million investment from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program to improve system performance and reliability on a key segment of the Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail line.The funds will allow the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Union Pacific Railroad to move forward with construction of a new bridge over the Kankakee River near Wilmington, as well as complete other safety and capacity enhancements along the busy corridor between Joliet and Dwight, Ill., Quinn and IDOT officials said in a press release.The funding will pay for a second set of tracks to be built between Mazonia and Elwood, including the new bridge to accommodate the increased capacity. The work will be performed by the UP crews and managed by IDOT in 2016 and 2017. Once completed, the improvements will immediately trim about five minutes off the travel time between Joliet and Dwight in anticipation of the eventual double-tracking of the remainder of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, IDOT officials said. The double-track then will allow more daily roundtrips at increased 110-mph speeds.The $102 million investment is part of the $550 million allocated in the Illinois Jobs Now! initiative to improve passenger-rail service across the state.The additional funds push the state's total financial commitment to the Chicago-St. Louis route to $358.8 million, with the remainder of the $1.7 billion project to be federally funded. Trains currently travel at 110 mph between Dwight and Pontiac. By the end of 2015, the trip between Chicago and St. Louis will be reduced to 5 hours from the current 5.5 hours, IDOT officials said.
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