Stadelman: Passenger rail service to Rockford gains traction

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ROCKFORD — Plans to restore passenger rail service between Rockford and Chicago for the first time in four decades are moving forward.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has hired engineering professional services firm WSP USA as project manager, according to state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford.

"Passenger rail service to and from Chicago holds tremendous potential for economic growth and enhanced quality of life in the Rockford area," Stadelman said in a news release. "People across northern Illinois are excited about the prospect of a rail link with Chicago, and I think it’s important to keep everyone fully informed to include as much public input as possible."

A passenger rail operator has not yet been determined but will likely be either Amtrak or Metra, Stadelman said.

The Department of Transportation has begun discussions with host railroads Metra and Union Pacific to determine necessary improvements to restore passenger rail to Rockford.

"A strong passenger rail network is a cornerstone of our commitment to building and maintaining a safe, reliable multimodal system of transportation that serves all residents throughout our state," Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said.

Preliminary engineering and environmental analysis are among the next steps before final design and construction.

IDOT will negotiate construction and maintenance agreements with Union Pacific and Metra.

The Chicago to Rockford route is slated to follow Metra’s Milwaukee District West Line from Chicago’s Union Station to Big Timber Road in Elgin and then the Union Pacific Railroad line to Rockford with stops in Huntley and Belvidere.

Stadelman secured $275 million in funding for the rail project as part of the Rebuild Illinois construction program.

Amtrak’s Black Hawk passenger rail route between Chicago and Dubuque, which included a stop in Rockford, was discontinued in 1981.

Ken DeCoster: kdecoster@rrstar.com; @DeCosterKen

via Rockford Register Star

September 24, 2020 at 05:25PM

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