High(er)-speed rail zips through Illinois

Faster passenger rail comes to the Midwestern United States.

Earlier this year, Amtrak tested higher-speed trains along a portion of its route between Chicago and St. Louis. Now the dream of faster travel between the two major cities in the Midwestern United States is a reality for at least a portion of the trip.

Amtrak announced that along a 15-mile segment of the corridor, trains are now traveling at 110 miles per hour, an upgrade that will reduce travel time along the route by 10 minutes. Along most of the route, trains reach a maximum speed of 79 mph. But this is just the first step for turning the route into higher-speed rail. By 2015, at least 75 percent of the Chicago to St. Louis corridor (known as Lincoln Service) will operate at 110 mph, reducing the travel time of the trip by more than an hour. When complete, the route will be one of the fastest outside the East Coast.

“This next generation rail system gives passengers a safer, more reliable way to travel across Illinois," said Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in a statement. "Today's announcement demonstrates significant progress on this major transportation initiative that will continue to boost Illinois’ economy and make sure our state has the best rail system in the nation.”

But juxtaposed with this news of Japan working on trains topping 300 mph, Quinn's talk of "next generation rail" seems a bit silly. Especially considering rail is generally considered "high speed" when it reaches a minimum sustained speed of 125 miles per hour.

Still, this news is more evidence that high-speed rail is at least moving in the right direction in the United States.

In addition to the speed improvements, the Lincoln Service line will get tech upgrades that include free WiFi.

In the past six years the route's ridership has doubled. With faster trains that number can only be expected to increase.

(h/t Railway Technology)

Photo: Flickr/Zol87

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com