High-speed rail set to start soon on part of Amtrak line
By Bob Okon email@example.com August 9, 2012 9:32PM
Updated: September 11, 2012 6:17AM
JOLIET — Amtrak riders will start getting the feel of high-speed rail in the fall between Dwight and Pontiac.
“That will be the first segment operating at 110 miles per hour,” said Guy Tridgell, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Full high-speed rail service from Joliet to Alton is not expected to start until 2015 at the earliest. But the trip should go a little faster with the higher speeds allowed for a 20-mile stretch from Dwight to Pontiac.
The date at which 110 mph begins in that segment has not been set, Tridgell said. But test runs between Dwight and Pontiac start later this month.
Planners for high-speed rail are holding a series of public hearings along the future corridor this week and next. They were in Joliet on Wednesday for a public hearing to collect comments on an environmental impact statement recently completed.
Interest in high-speed rail is keen in Joliet, where construction is about to begin for a future transportation center. City officials believe the new facility will make Joliet a convenient boarding spot for Chicago-area travelers who use high-speed rail.
The entire high-speed corridor runs from Chicago to St. Louis. But the segment north of Joliet will be the last to get 110-mph trains because of the bottlenecks in the more congested, urban area. That means travelers might find it faster to pick up the train in Joliet instead of two stops to the north in Summit and Chicago.
The study presented this week narrowed down the number of possible routes in the Chicago-Joliet segment from 16 to two, said Kirk Brown, with Hanson Professional Services, a consultant to the state on the project.
The two options include the Rock Island line, now a regular Metra route, and a Canadian National rail line. Both routes would run from Joliet’s Union Station to Union Station in Chicago.