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Illinois to lead 5 state’s purchases of high-speed locomotives

Trains already running 110 mph between Dwight, Pontiac

(MCT) — Locomotives capable of exceeding the 110-mph speed limit on the passenger rail corridor between Chicago and St. Louis will be bought for five states under a process the Illinois Department of Transportation will lead, officials said Thursday.

The Federal Railroad Administration selected IDOT to manage the multistate procurement of at least 35 next-generation locomotives for high-speed rail corridors in Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington state, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said.

The locomotives will be capable of cruising at up to 125 mph, based on a request from California, and they will comply with the most stringent federal EPA emissions standards, officials said.

California plans to operate the diesel-powered locomotives at 125 mph on portions of some routes. The state also has separate long-range plans for an electrified high-speed rail service topping out at 220 mph on an approximately 430-mile route between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The first 130-mile segment in a rural, middle section of the state is scheduled to be in operation in 2022. But the program, estimated to cost $68 billion, is under fire from opponents, and its future is in doubt.

Current Amtrak trains on the Chicago-to-St. Louis corridor have been running at 110 mph on only a 15-mile segment between Dwight, Ill., and Pontiac, Ill., since last November, but the existing locomotives do not meet the latest and most stringent pollution regulations, officials said.

IDOT and Amtrak’s goal is to provide 110 mph service on at least 75 percent of the route, between Dwight and Alton, Ill., by the end of 2015, officials said.

The new locomotives that will be bought through a competitive-bidding process will be paired with 130 new bilevel rail cars that are being built at the Nippon-Sharyo plant that opened last year in Rochelle in northwestern Illinois.

The federal government has allocated $808 million to build the locomotives and passenger coaches, officials said.

Twenty-one of the locomotives and 88 of the rail cars will operate on routes in the Midwest, IDOT spokesman Mike Claffey said.

Delivery of the passenger cars is expected to begin in mid-2015 for testing, Claffey said. “Multiple deliveries per month will start in early 2016,” he said.

The delivery schedule for the locomotives will be determined by the procurement process, he said.

©2013 Chicago Tribune
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