Illinois’ transportation chief says high speed rail will be popular with passengers.   IDOT Secretary Ann L. Schneider says the St. Louis-to-Chicago Amtrak route, where a high-speed line is being developed, has seen an increase in ridership of 210 percent over the last five years.


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“And that is on old, outdated equipment with spotty reliability and few rider amenities. When the Chicago-to-St. Louis route is complete, the trains will become more reliable, more convenient, and with the new equipment, there will be added amenities leading to enhanced passenger experiences,” she said.   Amtrak expects to have 110-mph service in effect at least between Pontiac and Dwight by the end of this year. That’s an 18-mile stretch of a 285-mile route, or 6 percent of the distance. It’ll be a while before the full route has higher speed and higher reliability, as sidings are built and new signals are installed.   In addition to the St. Louis-to-Chicago route, Schneider says ridership on all Amtrak routes supported by the state of Illinois is up 85 percent over the last five years. She expects demand to grow with the start of high-speed service and with the rising price of gasoline.


Schneider delivered her remarks Monday at the City Club of Chicago.


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