MHSRA has merged with Illinois Rail (Illinois ARP), taking on their membership. Former Illinois Rail leaders then formed a committee within the MHSRA to work on issues solely in their home state.
The work on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor to improve train times and thus allow more frequencies has driven MHSRA to propose a new timetable, which it has dubbed the ABE LINCOLN EXPRESS. This timetable would take into account several customer desires:
- Arrivals in both Chicago and Springfield that allow them to attend 10 AM meetings.
- Departures after dinner from both Springfield and Chicago.
- More dependable service.
- Faster service that makes rail more attractive than driving.
Many improvements are needed to bring the Chicago-St. Louis line up to high speed standards. Trackwork is required between Chicago and Manzona (between Joliet and Dwight), to save about 10 minutes. The Joliet station itself needs improvements in the form of a center island platform and tunnel. Currently whenever an Amtrak train stops at the Joliet station (located on UP/CN tracks), passengers have to cross the BNSF mainline to access the station building. BNSF has to shutdown operations during these periods for pedestrian safety. Stopping at a center island platform with the doors opening on the opposite side will save Amtrak an additional five minutes. Another five minutes could be saved passing through the Springfield area, where the tracks are seriously deteriorated. Crossing signals would also have to be retimed for higher speeds.