Rockford run also includes stop in Huntley
Amtrak passenger train service returns to Elgin next year as part of a planned daily run to Rockford and eventually to Dubuque, Iowa.
State officials last week announced a $233 million state capital investment to restart Amtrak service between Chicago and Rockford beginning next year.
The return of passenger rail service — which will include planned stops in Elgin, Huntley and Belvidere — will start with one daily round trip run from Chicago’s Union State and expand the following year to eventually continue west to Dubuque, Iowa.
There’s been no passnger rail service to Elgin-—excluding commuter trains—for 40 years.
“Next year, rail service between Rockford and Chicago will finally be a reality,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in making last week’s announcement. “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 announcement ends two years of negotiations and covers a different route than originally planed.
Amtrak will use tracks by Metra and the Union Pacific Railroad on a new northern route 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.
“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 new route will use Metra’s Milwaukee District-West Line and connect to the Union Pacific Railroad near Big Timber Road in Elgin. A 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.
Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin dedicated $3 million in state and federal funding in 2012 to develop this new, multi-modal station.
The $223 million in track, signaling and safety improvements are funded primarily through 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.
–News Bulletin news sources