Last Friday morning in Joliet, Illinois, I did what a lot more Illinoisans and Missourians have been doing lately--I boarded an Amtrak train. Friday's ride, however, was special because somewhere between Joliet and Normal, after decades of passenger trains on this route topping out at 79 miles per hour, our train hit a speed of 111.
That new high speed is an impressive 39 percent faster than the one passengers have been living with for years. So Friday was an exciting day for us, and as passengers in the coming weeks experience speeds of 110 MPH between Dwight and Pontiac, Illinois, it’s proof that 21st century rail is indeed coming to America.
In the bottom left of the monitor in the photo above, with Illinois Gov. Quinn, U.S. Senator Durbin, and
FRA Administrator Szabo, you can see the "111" indicating our speed. Photo courtesy www.harveystock.com
From day one, President Obama has been committed to investing in a modern rail network that will help our economy grow. And in the next three years, 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis route will enjoy the new high-speed service. That means a new normal in Midwest passenger rail travel that trims 90 minutes from the current trip between Chicago and St. Louis thanks to this Administration's historic investments in American rail.
Across the country, we're building and improving thousands of miles of rail and upgrading more than 40 stations. These investments will support a U.S. population that is expected to grow by 100 million people by 2050. In the Midwest alone, the population will likely increase by 30 percent.
Leaders in the Midwest know this. And that’s why they are working to connect the region’s 40 largest cities with higher-performing intercity passenger rail.
Watch video from the train at 110 mph, courtesy of NBC5 Chicago
With Normal's new station, we see how transportation investments transform communities. Innovative public transportation can spark huge private sector development and revitalize the core of the community.
The construction of this station created good-paying jobs in a hard-hit industry. Now, passengers can transfer from train to bus, car or bike quickly and easily. And before it was even finished, the new station and the promise of 110 MPH service attracted more than $200 million in private investments in Normal.
As our nation and the Midwest grow, we’ll need more transportation investments like this. All you have to do is look at ridership on the Chicago-St. Louis rail corridor, which has doubled over the past decade, including an 11 percent jump from last year.
Earlier this year, we also introduced 110 MPH service in Indiana and Michigan on an 80-mile stretch of the Chicago-Detroit corridor. And we'll be working hard to make those speeds available on other passenger routes, with even faster top speeds coming to the Northeast Corridor.
To prepare for this growing demand for passenger rail, we’ve also invested in new American-made passenger cars and locomotives that will serve passengers throughout the Midwest. In addition to being faster than current models, they’re lighter, more energy-efficient, and cost less to operate. And manufacturing efforts to build tomorrow's locomotives will create American jobs.
That's how we lay the groundwork for a prosperous tomorrow. That’s how we invest in an America built to last.