Governor Pat Quinn today announced a $223 million state capital investment that will create hundreds of jobs and restart Amtrak service between Rockford and Chicago beginning in 2015. 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 Governor 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," Governor 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."
Today's announcement is possible because following two years of negotiations, the state of Illinois has decided to switch to a new route, utilizing tracks owned by Metra and the Union Pacific Railroad. The new northern route was selected following lengthy negotiations with the Canadian National Railway, 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 IDOT, Amtrak, the Union Pacific Railroad, the City of Rockford and many others," Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. "I am especially proud that we are working together to build a multi-modal system of transportation that benefits residents and improves the quality of life throughout Illinois."
"I want to thank Governor Quinn and his staff for their persistence and determination to restore Amtrak service to the city of Rockford," Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said. "I know it wasn't easy, but nothing worthwhile and sustainable ever is. Working with the state of Illinois, the city of Rockford and its partners are transforming our city, and I am so happy to work with our state partners to make it happen, because it couldn't happen without their support."
"I am excited to be part of the final push to make Amtrak service a reality," State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) said. "Our growing, vibrant city boasts tremendous transportation opportunities and the addition of passenger rail service to and from Chicago enhances the amenities our community needs."
The new route will use Metra's Milwaukee District-West Line and connect to the Union Pacific Railroad 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. Governor Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin dedicated $3 million in state and federal funding in 2012 in develop this new, multi-modal station. Stops also are being planned for Elgin, Huntley and Belvidere.
"We are excited regarding the economic potential created by routing the train through Belvidere and thank Governor Quinn for making this a priority," Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain said. "I would also like to again recognize former Mayor Brereton, Dave Taylor, Steve Ernst and the entire NICTI group for their tremendous efforts to create a transportation vision for Northern Illinois. This vision has become reality. Hurrah!"
"It is essential for the economic development and the ultimate financial well being of all communities to have quality transportation," Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said. "I thank Governor Quinn and the state of Illinois for providing our region with improvements to I-90, high-speed rail and bus rapid transit between Elgin and Rockford that will bring us all unprecedented opportunities for growth."
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 the Canadian National Railroad to extend this corridor to its ultimate destination of Dubuque, Iowa, stopping in Freeport and Galena.
Included in the $223 million investment announced today 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.
At Governor Quinn's direction, Illinois has become a leader in the expansion of transit and passenger rail to create jobs, reduce congestion on state highways, improve air quality, expand travel options and promote economic development. Since taking office, the Governor has committed a total of $3.85 billion in state funding to transit and rail projects, including more than $500 million for high-speed rail from Chicago to St. Louis and new Amtrak service to the Quad Cities, creating or supporting 25,000 construction jobs. This investment has helped the state acquire close to $2 billion in federal funding for passenger rail projects statewide.
Also, under Secretary Schneider, IDOT has led the multi-state effort to utilize $268 million in federal funds to purchase new Amtrak locomotives and railcars, some of which will be used along the Rockford corridor.
Governor Quinn's six-year, $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! is the largest construction program in Illinois history, supporting an estimated 439,000 construction jobs. The program includes $14.5 billion for transportation through 2015. To date, IDOT has awarded nearly 6,200 transportation projects worth more than $15 billion, creating and supporting 190,000 jobs.