Higher Speeds Continue to Elude Chicago-St. Louis Line

Although some $1.95 million has been spent to rebuild the Chicago-St. Louis corridor for speeds of 110 miles per hour operation, the route still has a top speed of 79 mph.

The Illinois Department of Transportation, which oversaw the rebuilding, had said 90 mph top speeds would be allowed in 2018, but that didn’t happen.

The agency is no longer willing to say when 110 mph running will be possible.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported that higher speeds have been kept at bay due to delays in installing and testing new GPS-related safety technology.

IDOT now says that a top speed of 90 mph will go into effect between Alton and Springfield next summer with those speeds being implemented on the rest of the route by the end of 2019.

A top speed of 90 mph would cut the 5.5 hour Chicago-St. Louis travel time by about 15 minutes.

Although IDOT had predicted at one point that the corridor would see 110 mph speeds by 2019, an agency spokesperson said host railroad Union Pacific is still working with the state to test and place into service a positive train control system that will allow those speeds.

UP owns 25 miles of the 285-mile Chicago-St. Louis route. Amtrak is also working with other carriers that own segments of the corridor to achieve higher speeds.

The spokesperson said it was difficult at the present time to estimate when 110-mph speeds will be permitted because further work is needed on the PTC systems.

The spokesperson also said Amtrak continues to upgrade software on its locomotives to communicate with the PTC system and IDOT is committed to working toward 110 mph speeds as soon as possible.

She said it also hinges on such other factors as how soon a second track is built in a national prairie area south of Joliet.

UP spokeswoman Hannah Bolte said her railroad is “100 percent committed” to doing what’s necessary to achieve 110 mph on the route, but added that the Federal Railroad Administration must approve the PTC systems.

Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, called the delays “incredibly frustrating,” but acknowledged that PTC testing will take time because the technology is new.

Even when the PTC systems are up and running the higher speeds on the route will be limited to rural areas outside the St. Louis and Chicago metro areas.

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One Response to “Higher Speeds Continue to Elude Chicago-St. Louis Line”

  1. Brad Kort Says:

    Thanks for the post. $2,000,000 in and no speed increase. Readers may recall that about 7 years ago IDOT touted the 110 mph speed between Pontiac and Dwight. It hasn’t run at that speed since. Also, the passenger car contract was let to Nippon Sharyo, who couldn’t deliver. After much fanfare about new jobs in Illinois, the plant is closed and the cars are being manufactured in California.

    IDOT has either deceived us, botched the job, or both.

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