Amtrak’s rail service from Chicago to St. Louis is popular for good reason: Driving the 298 miles takes more than 4 hours and can be nerve-wracking for drivers.
Now, in what’s hailed as good news by anyone making that trip by train, as well as Amtrak and State of Illinois officials, Amtrak has announced its trains will travel faster along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor. The new speeds will reach up to 110 miles per hour — up from previous speeds of around 90 miles per hour.
“The Illinois Department of Transportation/Amtrak/Union Pacific team has delivered travel times that will make a real difference to our customers: Less than 2 hours from Chicago to Bloomington-Normal, less than 3 hours from Chicago to Springfield, and end-to-end St. Louis-Chicago schedules of under 5 hours,” Amtrak President Roger Harris said in a statement.
Some Amtrak trains will begin traveling at the increased speed on June 26.
Which Trains Will Run Faster
“Trains will continue to operate at 110 mph for several weeks without a change in schedule to ensure everything on the system is running properly and to monitor the actual travel time between stations,” John Oimoen, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) deputy director of rails, said in a statement.
It’s important to note that Amtrak has not released a timetable for when trains providing Texas Eagle service will begin traveling at faster speeds. Trains on that route travel from Chicago to St. Louis before heading to Dallas, Austin, and then San Antonio, Texas.
How The Increased Speed Is Possible
Federal approval for what’s called IDOT’s Chicago to St. Louis High Speed Rail Project came after years of construction and testing, as well as a nearly $2 billion investment, according to IDOT.
“Special equipment, installed as part of IDOT’s Chicago to St. Louis High Speed Rail Project, monitors the trains and traffic control systems, alerting the train crews of any potential problems,” Amtrak explains.
The project also involved major safety upgrades at 212-grade crossings to install special gates and other equipment to help prevent collisions with vehicles on the tracks and pedestrian accidents. What’s more, 39 crossings deemed at-risk were permanently closed.
The project also involved the acquisition of new locomotives by a consortium of states, including Illinois, that worked with the Federal Railroad Administration and California to procure new single-level railcars for use throughout Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Some of this new “rolling stock” will be used on Lincoln service trains and other routes throughout the Midwest, according to Amtrak.
“Modernizing our rail service means faster travel times and access to safer, more reliable service,” U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said. “The Lincoln Service line is a critical element of our state’s transportation network, and I’m so pleased to see the results of critical federal funding to improve the lives and travel options for Illinoisans.”