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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Illinois DOT, FRA, railroads sign HSR agreement for Chicago-St. Louis corridor


Yesterday, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced it reached an agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration, Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak to develop high-speed passenger-rail service between Chicago and St. Louis by 2014.

In September, IDOT launched initial construction on a 90-mile segment of track between Alton and Lincoln. With the cooperative agreement now in place, the state will continue construction in early spring from just south of Lincoln to Dwight. Construction on that phase is expected to be complete in fall.

After that, IDOT plans to install new grade crossing protection along the corridor. The first 20-mile segment of track that will accommodate 110 mph trains between Dwight and Pontiac is expected to be completed in 2012.

The agreement also will enable Illinois to procure new rail cars and locomotives, and upgrade stations.

In addition, the pact calls for operating five daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis, including three daily high-speed round trips, in the initial 2014 schedule. The parties are expected to achieve on-time performance of at least 80 percent. Amtrak will continue to operate the passenger trains along the route, which is owned by UP. The high-speed service is expected to reduce travel time between the two cities by up to 48 minutes, reducing trip times to four hours, 32 minutes.

Amtrak has partnered with IDOT for nearly 40 years to operate passenger-rail service in the state.

“Together we have built a system that transports nearly 2 million passengers to and from our Chicago hub,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement. “As America’s intercity passenger railroad and the only current operator of high-speed rail service, we look forward to working together with our state partners in the coming years to connect even more passengers and places in the Midwest and other regions with high-speed trains.”

In January 2010, the Obama Administration announced it was awarding Illinois more than $1.2 billion in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects, including corridor improvements on the Chicago-to-St. Louis route.

“Our priority in working out this agreement was to protect Union Pacific’s ability to provide the exceptional freight service our customers need and expect, while helping public agencies invest in improved passenger service,” said UP Chairman, President and CEO Jim Young in a prepared statement. “This agreement allows us to deliver on those customer commitments.”

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More News from 12/23/2010