Gearing up for higher-speed rail in Illinois

In 2009, Illinois received a $1.1 billion grant from the federal government to speed up trains along the Amtrak route between Chicago and St. Louis. Since then, state officials have been working rapidly toward their goal of running trains at 110 mph along the corridor. Although the project's leaders have logged significant progress in the past few years, they've encountered a host of challenges along the way, including pushback from local communities, hefty environmental reporting requirements and issues with implementing positive train control.

For a feature in our November issue, I reached out to Illinois Department of Transportation officials to learn a bit more about how they've dealt with these obstacles. I also incorporated some of the things I heard during a presentation on the project at Railway Interchange.

After I finished the story, I was left with a few lingering questions: Are higher-speed rail programs like this likely to catch on elsewhere in the United States? Is there sufficient demand for these kinds of projects? And finally, will they eventually pave the way for "true" high-speed trains — that is, those capable of traveling at 200 mph or more? I'd be curious to know your thoughts on the topic. Feel free to share your ideas here or in the comments section on

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