The return of passenger rail to Rockford for the first time since 1981 will begin with one round trip daily between Chicago's Union Station and a temporary station located in Rockford. Service will be expanded the following year and will eventually continue west to Dubuque, Iowa. The projects are part of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's agenda to create jobs and build a 21st century infrastructure that will drive Illinois' economy forward.
"Next year, rail service between Rockford and Chicago will finally be a reality," Gov. Quinn said. "This funding and a new route are the final pieces of the puzzle to restart this critical rail service, which has been dormant for more than three decades. This is just the beginning, reliable, intercity passenger rail will create jobs and drive economic development in these cities, the region and the state for years to come."
The state of Illinois has decided to switch to a new route, utilizing tracks owned by Metra and Union Pacific. The new northern route was selected following lengthy negotiations with Canadian National, whose tracks were originally chosen for the service. Switching to the new tracks will ensure that service begins in 2015 and isn't held up by continued delays.
"Today's announcement is truly a team effort involving Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Amtrak, Union Pacific, the city of Rockford and many others," IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider said. "I am especially proud that we are working together to build a multimodal system of transportation that benefits residents and improves the quality of life throughout Illinois."
The new route will use Metra's Milwaukee District-West Line and connect to Union Pacific near Big Timber Road in Elgin. The Rockford station will be temporarily located at 703 Seventh Street on the east side of the Rock River, while IDOT and the city continue to develop a permanent Main Street station on the river's west side. Gov. Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) dedicated $3 million in state and federal funding in 2012 to develop this new, multi-modal station. Stops also are being planned for Elgin, Huntley and Belvidere.
The $223 million in track, signaling and safety improvements are funded primarily through Governor Quinn's Illinois Jobs Now! capital program. Preliminary improvements to the Union Pacific tracks will accommodate Amtrak trains at 59 mph by the end of next year. Final improvements are planned to be completed in 2016, at which point speeds will increase to 79 mph and a second Chicago-Rockford round trip will be added. The state will continue to work with Canadian National to extend this corridor to its ultimate destination of Dubuque, Iowa, stopping in Freeport and Galena.
Included in the $223-million investment is $7.85 million to rehabilitate the temporary station on 7th Street in Rockford and $5.85 million to be split between Huntley and Belvidere to develop their own stations. The existing Metra station in Elgin will serve as its Amtrak stop.