CHAMPAIGN — If you're planning to take Amtrak between Champaign and Chicago this week, expect a few extra passengers on some of the trains.
The Illini and Saluki trains traveling south from Chicago to Champaign will carry some passengers that would ordinarily travel on the Lincoln Service route from Chicago to St. Louis via Bloomington-Normal.
That route is out of service through Friday while bridge and culvert upgrades are being made north of Bloomington-Normal. The work is being done so the route can someday accommodate high-speed trains.
During the disruption, Lincoln Service passengers will take the Illini and Saluki trains south to Champaign.
They will then board chartered buses to St. Louis or intermediate destinations such as Normal, Springfield and Alton.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said he believed northbound Illini Service travelers would take chartered buses the full distance to Chicago. Amtrak has contracted with Vandalia Bus Lines to provide the service.
Magliari said even though more passengers are taking the southbound Illini and Saluki trains from Chicago to Champaign, the trips Friday were not sold out, and sell-outs are not expected over the weekend.
He noted the size of trains can be adjusted to handle increased demand, with a business class car and six 68-seat coaches available.
As of midday Friday, Amtrak had 223 reservations for Saturday's southbound Saluki to Champaign, he said.
Magliari said the third Amtrak route running through Champaign — the City of New Orleans — will not be handling Lincoln Service passengers.
The service change means longer trips for those traveling between Chicago and St. Louis, Magliari said.
"There are deviations from the usual train schedules ... to account for the longer travel times of buses when compared with trains," an Amtrak release stated.
Amtrak made similar service adjustments last summer for work on the Chicago-to-St. Louis route, Magliari said.
But last year, the service change lasted three weeks, rather than the eight days scheduled this year.
Last November, Amtrak began operating higher-speed trains between Dwight and Pontiac. Trains on that segment can travel at speeds up to 110 mph, according to Amtrak.