Federal government allows Amtrak trains to speed up travel between St. Louis and Chicago

Amtrak will begin offering shorter trips between St. Louis and Chicago now that the federal government has approved a request for trains to travel at speeds of up to 110 mph.

The previous limit was 90 mph, according to a news release last week from Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“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,” stated John Oimoen, IDOT deputy director of rails.

The change will primarily affect the section of the Chicago-St. Louis railroad corridor between Joliet and Alton.

“This will help establish shorter schedules for the four Amtrak Lincoln Service round-trips and the (Amtrak) Texas Eagle,” according to the news release. “There are no timetable changes at this time for the 10 daily Amtrak trains on the route.

“Until now, 90 mph has been the maximum authorized speed on the tracks owned by Union Pacific Railroad. Amtrak operates Lincoln Service and other trains under a contract with IDOT.”

Faster trains make it even more important for people to take safety precautions, according to the news release.

“Amtrak, IDOT and the Illinois Commerce Commission work with Operation Lifesaver, an industry-sponsored campaign that educates persons of all ages on how to stay safe around railroad tracks,” stated Justin Meko, Amtrak vice president of operational safety.

“Now is a great time for schools, companies, and other groups to schedule safety presentations.”

Volunteers make the presentations, which can be requested by contacting the coordinator at the www.oli.org website.

“Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists should always use caution on (the St. Louis-Chicago) rail corridor, as our trains are faster than they can appear and are quieter than ever,” according to the news release.

Tips include:

  • Only use designated public crossings.

  • Never disregard flashing crossing signals or go around lowered gates.

  • Don’t trespass on railroad property.

  • If there’s a problem or emergency on or near railroad tracks, call the number on blue emergency notification signs.

“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,” according to the news release.