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Amtrak holds high-speed test

TOWANDA, Ill. -- A special Amtrak train roared through Towanda at more than 100 mph Wednesday as part of an ongoing test of high-speed passenger rail service in Illinois, the Bloomington Pantagraph reported.

The test, which was not announced to the public, was an apparent precursor to a more high-profile demonstration of high-speed rail scheduled for Oct. 31 on the tracks between Normal and Lexington.

Officials at the Illinois Department of Transportation said Wednesday's activity on the 15-mile stretch was a sort of pre-test of the Halloween Day event, which could include a visit by Gov. George Ryan and other dignitaries.

In other words, the agency wanted to find out about glitches before that event takes place.

"We have an obligation to check things out," said John Schwalbach, chief of IDOT's bureau of railroads.

The test included a train rumbling through Towanda at 101 mph, according to the display on a McLean County Sheriff's Department radar gun.

Law enforcement officials were posted at each of the six crossings along the route to ensure no vehicles were in the way.

Most Amtrak trains run no faster than 79 mph.

Ongoing track improvements, including a satellite tracking device to keep tabs on the location of trains, could allow passenger trains to run at 110 mph, thus cutting the travel time between Chicago and St. Louis to less than four hours.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

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