The Illinois Department of Transportaion hasn't determined which route it prefers to use through Springfield for the future high-speed corridor between Chicago and St. Louis. (Photo used under Creative Commons/Flickr aka Kath)
By Beth Whisman
NORMAL - A segment of high-speed rail that runs through Central Illinois is almost finished.
The majority of track and rail crossing upgrades have been completed between Dwight and Pontaic. That has inspired Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to plan an inaugural ride along the short span of completed high-speed track.
Quinn and LaHood will be joined by other dignitaries on Friday, Oct. 19, traveling on a train between Joliet and Normal. Along that route, tracks between Dwight and Pontiac are prepared for high-speed travel at 110 mph. The portion has been designated as the initial test segment for the St. Louis to Chicago route.
The Illinois Department of Transportation and other agencies continue to work on determining the best route through Springfield and from Alton to St. Louis. The goal is to have high-speed rail from Joliet to Alton by 2015 and eventually from Chicago to St. Louis.
"A high speed route from Chicago to St. Louis, that's just the beginning," Quinn said Tuesday. "We want to do high speed rail frm Chicago to Detriot. We want to be the epicenter of fast trains, fast passenger trains."
Normal City Manager Mark Peterson told WJBC he was impressed when he rode a high speed train at just 90 mph.
"In terms of the train itself, the rail is very smooth," he said. "You'll have no sense that your're going that fast until you look out the window."
Peterson said Tuesday the town is preparing for a public speaking event at the end of the governor's inaugural ride at Uptown Station. The trip is expected to begin midday and stop in Normal around 12:30 p.m.
The town is also expecting potential protestors who have been followign the governor around the state. The group is made up of unionized state workers with AFSCME who are angry over pension reforms. Peterson said the town will set aside a separeate protest area in the Uptown.
"Apparently, they have been very compliant and reasonable (at other events)," he said.
Nick Gale contributed to this report.