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Illinois and Metra partnership will restore Chicago-Rockford rail service

Rebuild Illinois project to support two daily round trips by 2027

ROCKFORD, Ill. (July 9, 2023) – Governor JB Pritzker was joined last week by state and local officials to announce a partnership between the Illinois Department of Transportation and Metra to once again provide safe and reliable passenger rail between Chicago and Rockford, restoring service that was discontinued in 1981.

The first trains are anticipated to start running by late 2027, offering efficient, economical travel with stops in between the two cities. The project is funded through $275 million from the Rebuild Illinois capital program.

“With this new service, we’re connecting more communities and creating greater opportunities for people across the state line region,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “From the hundreds of construction and engineering jobs created by our planned rail improvements to the increased economic growth that comes with heightened connectivity, all the way to the long-lasting reduction in pollution and traffic congestion that will stem from more efficient rail alternatives to driving, the new Rockford Intercity Passenger Rail service will have positive impacts that will strengthen northern Illinois for years to come.”

Chicago to Rockford returns after 40+ years

To return passenger trains between Chicago and Rockford after more than 40 years, Metra will utilize its Milwaukee District West line and relationships with the Union Pacific Railroad to extend service beyond Elgin to reach Rockford, with expected stops in Huntley and Belvidere.

Other project components include improved grade crossings, upgraded bridges, and double-tracking at various locations. Stations also will be built in Huntley and Belvidere.

With these improvements, travel time is anticipated to be slightly less than two hours between the two cities, with two round trips per day planned. Boarding locations in Chicago and Rockford, as well as a fare structure and schedule, are still to be determined.

A new website, chicagotorockfordrail.org, offers an overview of the project. Status updates will be provided in the coming months, and public informational meetings will be scheduled as well.

Project phases

Pending Metra board approval, the next phases of the project involve reaching operations and maintenance agreements between IDOT, Metra, and Union Pacific. Also required are engineering studies to determine the scope of track improvements needed to support increasing speeds from existing freight operations that peak at 40 mph to enable passenger speeds of 79 mph between Elgin and Rockford. To reach Rockford, a connection ultimately will have to be built between Metra and the Union Pacific tracks in Elgin.

“This will be a game-changer for Rockford and Belvidere,” said State Senator Steve Stadelman, (D-Rockford). “Restoring passenger rail service to Chicago has been one of my priorities and will spur economic development across northern Illinois. Selection of Metra as the operator is an important step in passenger rail becoming a reality again, making the Rockford region a more attractive place to work and live.”

Since its founding in 1984, Metra has become one of the largest and most comprehensive passenger rail systems in North America. The system includes nearly 500 miles of track with 242 stations on 11 routes.

Passed in 2019, Rebuild Illinois is investing a total of $33.2 billion over six years into the state’s aging transportation system, creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Rebuild Illinois is not only the largest capital program in state history, but also the first that touches all modes of transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

Rebuild Illinois includes more than $1 billion to expand and improve rail across the state, including $225 million to restore passenger service to the Quad Cities, $100 million to improve safety and reliability on Amtrak’s Saluki service between Chicago and Carbondale, and $492 million to invest in modernizing operations in the northeastern Illinois through the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program.

In June, Gov. Pritzker also celebrated the start of high-speed passenger service between Chicago and St. Louis, a $1.96 billion project that broke ground in 2010.

Office of the Illinois Governor
Office of the Illinois Governorhttps://www.illinois.gov/
One of the duties of the Office of the ​Governor is to announce the lowering of flags to half-staff for every Illinois member of the armed forces, police force, fire service, and other groups covered by the Act killed in the line of duty. The Lansing Journal receives news releases regarding these occasions and republishes them for our community. We also publish other state news from the Governor's Office that impacts or interests our community.