NORMAL — History was made Friday morning when an Amtrak train carrying a number of dignitaries, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, hit a speed of 111 mph between Dwight and Pontiac.

“That’s the fastest time outside the Northeast in American history,” Quinn said at a news conference at Uptown Station in Normal where the train stopped after its journey from Joliet. Amtrak trains normally top out around 79 mph now.

“What we’re doing will be in the history books,” said LaHood. “I couldn’t be prouder.”

Normal Mayor Chris Koos, who was among those riding the train, said the train traveled 111 mph for about five minutes. While it was hard to notice the difference, Koos said, “It was very smooth.”

Other Amtrak riders will experience the new higher speed between Dwight and Pontiac before Thanksgiving, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. That part of the line already has the high-speed track upgrades and enhanced signals, and nearly half of the at-grade crossings already had four-quadrant gates, a safety measure required for the higher speed trains.

The 110-mph service is expected to be in place along 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor by 2015.

LaHood said he believes future funding for high-speed rail is “very bright.”

Illinois received the third largest amount of money from the federal stimulus bill for the high-speed rail project, LaHood said.  He credited Quinn and his team and Durbin, who voted for the bill, for helping secure $1.2 billion in federal money.

With state dollars, the project received a total of $2 billion.

“We’ve covered a lot of territory,” Durbin said. “Not just from Joliet to Normal but the last five years.”

He noted officials in Washington, D.C., wrote off an Amtrak subsidy five years ago.  

“Look where we are today,” he said, giving credit to President Barack Obama’s vision to save the economy by investing in the country’s infrastructure, including high-speed rail. “High-speed rail is part of putting America back on its feet.”

Quinn said each train station along the Amtrak line is an economic magnet for communities. Normal Mayor Chris Koos agreed, noting high-speed rail played a key role in John Q. Hammon’s decision to build the uptown Marriott Hotel and Conference Center and also influenced developers of the future Uptown One project that will be built just northwest of Uptown Station.

“There’s been $155 million in private development in uptown, and much has to do with high-speed rail,” Koos said.

Amtrak Chairman Tom Carper said the number of Amtrak passengers continues to grow: The Chicago-St. Louis line served 675,295 passengers in the last 12 months, an increase of 11 percent and a new record.  Because of Amtrak’s growth, the train service provider needed $100 million less in federal subsidies this year, he said.

On a roll

During the two years of construction on 90 miles of railroad track along the Chicago-St. Louis rail line, Union Pacific Railroad crews have:

- Installed more than 237 track-miles of new rail

- Installed 619,813 new concrete ties

- Spread more than 1.2 tons of stone ballast

- Finished interim renewals of 235 crossing surfaces and approaches

SOURCE: Illinois Department of Transportation

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(20) comments

Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein

Its a good thing the the Governor went thru Dwight @ 111 MPH . Word has it hes not to popular there.

BC
BC

The Governor is never popular with the people directly effected by spending cuts. Everybody wants the state to reduce spending as long as they keep their personal share of tax supported conveniences and advantages. The people in Dwight and Pontiac want Joliet to take the hit.

middlefinger
middlefinger

1.2 BILLION dollars so a train can travel 32mph faster than it usually does for 5 miles ? No wonder our nation is broke. I have seen rusted out chevys going faster than 111mph between Pontiac and Dewight. If Koos and the othe dignitaries looked out the window of the train, they probable saw traffic on the interstate passing them. A bullet train this is NOT.

BC
BC

That is what the old folks said about horses at the dawn of the automobile. The day is fast approaching when that rusted out old Chevy will be too expensive to operate. Progress is always met with opposition from a portion of the population.

perfume river
perfume river

I think if the Gov. rode every Amtrack Train there's a slim chance they may run on time. I don't think there's any other way. We, the taxpayers have paid Billions over the years to allow Amtrack to have pooer on time stats than a Jr. High dealer. Throwing money and speed at Amtrack is making fools out of all of us. Until the US Government allows Amtrack to run on an open track its doomed to failure. Ant other suggestions?

Harcourt
Harcourt

This investment in infrastructure makes sense. It will propel the country in the direction of modern mass transit, which is a necessity for the future. Good going politicians!

Wizard
Wizard

Pretty sure that stone number is wrong

Wake Up America
Wake Up America

I recently rode a train in Europe that, according to the electronic message board at each end of the car I was in, topped out at 183 mph. It was outstanding. I wish we had those here, but I'm finding it hard to imagine, no matter how much we spend.

Jose
Jose

Having traveled several times between Tokyo-Osaka, I've found the Shinkansen to be a marvel of engineering: clean, reliable, fast, safe and better for the environment than cars.

Too bad politics drives motivation here.

Interested
Interested

Look at the population density in Europe and Japan and compare to the US. High speed rail can work in some parts of the country like the Northeast probably the S.D.-L.A.-S.F. corridor but pretty much a waste of money for the rest of the county.

joe smoe
joe smoe

I largely agree with the sentiments about the population density being a major factor of the success of high speed rail in Europe and Japan. However, I do believe true high speed rail could work between St. Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee. The Normal train station moves a hundred thousand passengers each year, which would easily double if the trains were reliable, on time, and faster. But, as long as I can drive to Chicago in the same amount of time, and know that I won't be delayed for waiting on a freight train...my preference is to drive. I still don't understand why freight takes precedence over people and I do think it's a joke to call a 111 mph diesel locomotive "high speed."

ct
ct

It is not politics, it is basic geography

Trains work well in dense areas, where long time rail routes exist and are managed by one network and have no freight competition.

You can't build new rail in the US because you could never acquire the rights, and the cost is crazy compared to just using a plane.

People in other countries burn animal dung for fuel; doesn't mean we should do it too.

Right57
Right57

This is not high speed rail, just an old train going fast. There are a lot of things this state will go down in history for. The next will be three consecutive governors sentenced to prison time.

IB3457
IB3457

"Spread more than 1.2 tons of stone ballast"... so like one pickup truck load?

small town
small town

As they laugh and thumb their noses at all the underlings in southern illinois!

THX 101
THX 101

However they try to spin this 'accomplishment', 1.2 billion dollars to achieve 111 mph for 5 min is a joke.

stick
stick

I ride Amrtak on a regular basis and would rather see personal benefit to me of the tax $$ I pay than another war or more social engineering and redistribution, but hi speed rail is such a joke. If these political hacks want to address hi speed rail, they only need to ride from Joliet to Union Station or Alton into St. Louis. It won't matter if trains can run from Alton to Joliet in 2 minutes, the problems are on each end. And, how much did taxpayers pay to bring these drones and dregs to Joliet for their trip to Bloomington. As was stated earlier, no wonder the US is broke. Plus, when Romney assumes control, Amtrak will see funding eliminated. But, I'd rather ride than drive and those that think Amtrak is never on time or a major inconvenience, try flying sometime if you want to be invconvenienced.

Guy
Guy

This is an example of politicians spending money on good things. This is advancing technology which makes lives easier. It's not a full "bullet train" unfortunately, like other countries that have trains that go 135+ mph, but it's a start that could jumpstart a barely alive train industry.

Any advancements in technology is a GOOD thing for humanity. I can't believe people have a problem with this....

Phil Mikalik
Phil Mikalik

The future for using Amtrak for transportation of people is finally getting the attention it needs to secure transporting safe and reliable service.
The track improvements makes the line between Chicago and St.Louis one of the best in the nation.
We need to make Amtrak a priority train with no exceptions for any delays. If this happens we can see on time trains and an increase in ridership. With the population increasing and the autos becoming more expensive to operate this is looking to the future now.

Crybaby
Crybaby

Mayor Koos is HOT!

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