NORMAL — State officials are gearing up for an inaugural run this month on the new high-speed rail tracks from Joliet to Normal.
Gov. Pat Quinn said during a Tuesday media briefing that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood would be joining him Oct. 19 for a train ride on the high-speed rail stretch.
Josh Kauffman, spokesman for IDOT, said the high-speed rail corridor project is “moving forward as planned” and “we are working diligently to finalize logistical particulars of the anticipated 110 mph demonstration.”
Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said state workers coordinating the project met with him recently and said the inaugural run would take place in a refurbished Amtrak passenger car. The train is not expected to reach speeds of 110 mph the entire trip.
Peterson said the train and all of the dignitaries onboard are expected to be at Normal’s Uptown Station about 12:45 p.m. Oct. 19. Several people, including Quinn, LaHood and Normal Mayor Chris Koos will speak on the station platform.
According to the Illinois high-speed rail website, a 14-mile segment between Dwight and Pontiac has been designated by IDOT and Union Pacific Railroad as the initial test segment and that the inaugural run is expected to take place in October.
Union Pacific installed new ties and rails along the Chicago-St. Louis Amtrak route as part of a $1.5 billion upgrade to make way for high-speed trains. About 115,000 of the 495,000 nearly new concrete ties were replaced this summer because they did not meet durability standards, according to Union Pacific.