Upgrading of approximately ninety-six miles of railroad track, including installation of 110,000 railroad ties for future high-speed Amtrak trains, will resume June 16. This work will lead to the substitution of chartered motorcoaches for some Lincoln Service trains, new express motorcoach connections to and from other Amtrak trains and the detour of the Texas Eagle between Chicago and St. Louis without scheduled stops.
The temporary changes will allow Union Pacific Railroad crews to improve infrastructure to allow Amtrak service at speeds up to 110 mph (177 kph), an increase from the current maximum of 79 mph (127 kph). The Illinois Department of Transportation anticipates operation of some Lincoln Service trains at speeds up to 110 mph next year between Dwight and Pontiac.
The attached Passenger Service Notice covers the third phase of the 2011 work from June 16 to June 24, along 54 miles between Normal and Dwight and for about 26 miles south of Joliet.
During this phase of the construction, Amtrak will charter motorcoaches to and from Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Alton and St. Louis to connect with Amtrak Illini and Saluki trains in Champaign in order to expedite travel between Chicago and downstate. By avoiding Chicago suburban highway congestion and downtown Chicago traffic, this connection through Champaign will result in more rail travel during this project. Amtrak will continue to charter other motorcoaches to cover all intermediate stops on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.
The Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail corridor is among the first high-speed rail projects in the country to begin construction, breaking ground in Brighton (between Alton and Carlinville) last September. Track renewal for this year’s construction season began on April 2, at Elkhart (between Springfield and Lincoln) and is currently proceeding north. It is scheduled for completion by late summer.
Last year, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) selected Illinois to receive $1.1 billion for corridor improvements to bring high-speed passenger rail service to Illinois by 2014. The plans also include new locomotives and passenger cars, station improvements, installation of premium rail and concrete ties, enhanced grade crossing warning systems with four-quadrant roadway and pedestrian gates (subject to state and federal regulatory approvals) and implementation of state- of-the-art safety signaling technology. The State of Illinois showed its financial commitment by providing more than $42 million in capital funding.
Earlier this year, Illinois was selected by FRA to receive $186.3 million in additional funds to further upgrade the route and provide high speed service between Dwight and Joliet.
Additionally, Illinois and four other Midwestern states were awarded a total of $268.2 million to purchase 48 passenger rail cars and seven locomotives compliant with standards for use on corridors with speeds up to 110 mph. Illinois intends to issue a Request for Proposals for the new rail equipment later this year.
Until the new trains arrive in a few years, Lincoln Service trains will continue to operate with the current Amtrak cars and locomotives, which are capable of higher speeds.
Passenger Service Notices are posted at stations and will be displayed as part of the booking process on Amtrak.com, with updates on the Official Illinois High-Speed Rail Chicago to St. Louis project website, www.idothsr.org.
Further notices will be issued through the 2011 construction season.