The project, part of a $2 billion federal and state investment in high-speed rail, has created and supported more than 6,000 construction jobs and many more related to production and equipment manufacturing.
The 15-mile demonstration segment showcased major infrastructure improvements, state-of-the-art signaling and significant technological and safety advancements. Trains will start carrying Amtrak riders at the higher speed between Dwight and Pontiac before Thanksgiving of this year. The 110-mph service is projected to be in place along nearly 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor by 2015, reducing travel time by more than an hour. Today's demonstration is part of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's vision to bring high-speed rail to Illinois and modernize the state's transportation infrastructure.
"A 21st century rail system in Illinois will create jobs and drive economic development throughout the Midwest, while making travel across Illinois faster, safer and more reliable," Governor Quinn said.
Illinois has become a national leader in passenger rail expansion. Total ridership on Amtrak's four Illinois routes has grown nearly 75 percent over the past six years, rising to more than 2.1 million passengers last year. Ridership on today's Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service alone has doubled in that time period, despite relatively slow speeds and aging equipment. When completed, trains traveling from Chicago to St. Louis will reach top speeds, matching those of trains now traveling between Chicago and Detroit.
The demonstration began at the soon-to-be renovated Joliet Union Station and ended at Normal's new multimodal train station, where transportation officials highlighted the modern upgrades, accommodations and benefits Amtrak travelers will experience first-hand in the near future. Before it was complete, the new Normal station and promise of 110-mph service had attracted more than $200 million in private investments to its downtown area. Future rail investments along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor will spur economic activity across Illinois in Springfield, Dwight, Pontiac, Lincoln, Carlinville, Alton and Joliet where new or newly-renovated stations are under development or in the planning stages.