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$1.95B high-speed rail project in final phase in Illinois

Amtrak trains between Pontiac and Dwight have been running at 110 mph since fall of 2012 as a demonstration. Officials have set a goal to make the rest of the line between Chicago and St. Louis run at 110 mph by 2019.
Amtrak trains between Pontiac and Dwight have been running at 110 mph since fall of 2012 as a demonstration. Officials have set a goal to make the rest of the line between Chicago and St. Louis run at 110 mph by 2019.

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A nearly $2 billion high-speed Amtrak rail project in Illinois is in its final phase of construction.

The Amtrak passenger service at speeds of up to 90 mph should begin in the summer, The State Journal-Register reported. The Union Pacific-Third Street corridor in Springfield is part of the work that remains. Plans for the station also include safety, technology and accessibility improvements.

Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said speeds of up to 110 mph between St. Louis and Chicago should be ready by 2019, pending installation of automated train-control and detection technology. The satellite-based "positive train control" technology is designed to automatically stop trains if a crash is imminent.

Blankenhorn said that he expects the project to finish on time and on budget. Federal funding will pay $1.65 billion of the final cost with the state covering about $300 million.

"There's some crossing work that needs to be done in Springfield, and that's well underway," said Blankenhorn.

Amtrak currently has a 79 mph speed limit between St. Louis and Chicago, with an exception of a section of the line between Pontiac and Dwight, where demonstration speeds of up to 110 mph began in the fall in 2012.

Blankenhorn said while faster speeds are important, Amtrak is dedicated to improving its on-time performance.

"It's not so much about speed as it is reliability," said Blankenhorn. "Passengers would use our trains a lot more if they knew they were going to be there when they need them and were not going to be an hour and a half late."

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