New 110 mph rail service hailed

Gov. JB Pritzker joined federal, state and local officials along with the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, Union Pacific Railroad, and project supporters at Union Station on Monday to celebrate the start of 110 miles per hour passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Louis. 

This multi-year project better connects the state’s communities and major institutions while improving safety, convenience, and accessibility. Starting with the first trains on Amtrak’s state-supported Lincoln Service, the higher speeds are eliminating approximately 15 minutes from the previous 90 mph runtimes between the two cities and 30 minutes from the initial 79 mph schedule in place when the project broke ground.

“Illinois is the only state where all seven of the nation’s largest railroads operate. That’s a unique economic advantage recognized by employers across the globe, helping our state attract and maintain quality jobs,” Pritzker said. “By upgrading to higher-speed service on Illinois’ largest passenger rail line, we are solidifying our status as the transportation hub of North America. Investments like these do more than just connect cities – they allow our residents to access opportunities beyond their immediate neighborhoods, streamline regional collaborations, and open doors for new jobs and new businesses.”

In addition to increasing speeds, the $1.96 billion project has boosted safety and reliability for passengers while providing upgraded and new stations. Ride quality has also been enhanced up and down the corridor for both passenger and freight service on the Union Pacific Railroad, thanks to the addition of new concrete ties along the route and improvements to bridges, culverts, and signaling systems.  

Major upgrades were performed at 212 grade crossings by installing four-quadrant gates and loop detectors to help prevent collisions with vehicles on the tracks. Pedestrian gates and fencing were built to protect people crossing tracks passing through towns and neighborhoods. Thirty-nine crossings deemed at-risk were permanently closed.

The project also built new stations in Dwight, Pontiac, Carlinville and Alton, renovated the Lincoln station, improved the existing Normal station, and made upgrades to the Springfield station. A separate project to build a new multimodal station in Joliet was completed in 2018, with a second phase starting in 2021.

The facilities provide a better customer experience and amenities, such as free Wi-Fi and connections to bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The new and improved stations act as gateways to their communities, inviting tourism and providing additional travel options for the public.

A final component of the project is the acquisition of new locomotives and railcars to be used throughout the Midwest. The new Charger locomotives are the first higher-speed passenger locomotives to meet Tier 4 emissions standards, resulting in 90 percent emissions reduction compared to older locomotives. 

Thirty-three new locomotives have been in service since late 2017.

Illinois is also part of a consortium of states working to procure 88 new single-level railcars that are fully accessible for persons with disabilities for use in Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan. More than 50 of the cars are currently in revenue service on Amtrak Midwest routes.

“The Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail project is testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and a shared vision for a brighter future,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. “This transformative endeavor, decades in the making, symbolizes our commitment to improving mobility, creating jobs, and fostering sustainable growth.”

For additional information on the new schedule or to purchase tickets, visit

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