An Amtrak train zoomed past drivers on I-55 Friday during a historic run, clocking in at a speed of 111 miles per hour as it traveled on the new high-speed rail.
"What we're celebrating here is the next generation of transportation for the next generation," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood at the record-setting test run on Amtrak's hi-speed rail.
The 15-mile stretch of track between Dwight and Pontiac, Ill., is equipped to handle speeds of 110 miles per hour. The 111 mile per hour speed the train reached during the test run "is the fastest time of a passenger train outside the Northeast in American history," according to Governor Pat Quinn, who received credit for securing the necessary funding for Illinois.
While the high-speed capability is officially here, it's technically still in "test mode." Amtrak's goal is to have the first section of 110 miles per hour service in place for its riders in time for Thanksgiving.
About 75-percent of the route between Chicago and St. Louis will be equipped by 2015, dropping travel times between Chicago and St. Louis to 3 hours and 49 minutes.
"Four years ago, we were nowhere," LaHood said. "Illinois and the country was a wasteland when it came to high-speed rail."
Illinois secured over $2 billion for the project. The amount was the third highest amount of federal high-speed rail funding from the President's stimulus package, behind California and the Northeast Corridor, LaHood said.
Ridership between Chicago and St. Louis is already up 11-percent since last year and expects 110 mph speeds to boost it even further, according to Amtrak.
"When the project is complete, we anticipate that the Chicago to St. Louis route will be one of the busiest state-supported routes in the country," said Amtrak Chairman Tom Carper.