$1.1 Billion Chicago Hub Improvement Program Aims to Modernise Regional Rail

The Governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker has joined state and local leaders to present the Chicago Hub Improvement Program, which proposes a 1.1 billion USD investment in a series of modernisation projects for regional rail infrastructure.

The programme aims to improve performance and reduce delays while delivering an upgraded transportation hub at Chicago Union Station.

Govenor JB Pritzker announces the Chicago Hub Improvement Program
Govenor JB Pritzker announces the Chicago Hub Improvement Program

The proposed projects will expand capacity, eliminate bottlenecks and improve air quality, accessibility, reliability and customer experience for more than 30 million passengers each year.

This effort is supported by 50 million USD from the Governor’s Rebuild Illinois capital programme.

Governor JB Pritzker said:

“The Chicago Hub Improvement Program is an opportunity for new federal infrastructure funding to catalyse the rail system this region deserves. This proposal would not only make much-needed improvements to Union Station and existing rail lines throughout Illinois and into Michigan — it would unlock a vast system of new and expanded passenger rail services throughout the Midwest, with Chicago's Union Station serving as the hub.”

The programme is now hoping to secure an 872.8 million USD grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Federal/State Partnership Program.

The grant applicants for this funding include Amtrak, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Cook County, Metra, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Michigan Department of Transportation. These agencies are contributing a combined 218.2 million USD toward the improvements.

As part of the programme, investments in Union Station will consist of improving platforms, upgrading the concourse and reactivating tracks for passenger use that were first built for the Old Post Office. This will increase capacity for both Amtrak and Metra services.

Chicago Union Station
Chicago Union Station

In addition, the grant will provide a new connection between Union Station and the St. Charles Air Line bridge over the south branch of the Chicago River. This connection, combined with additional track east of the bridge, will save up to 15 minutes on Illini/Saluki and City of New Orleans trains.

Meanwhile, 16 miles of a second track owned by Amtrak in southwest Michigan will be restored to eliminate a bottleneck and help reduce the trip between Chicago and Detroit by 30 minutes.

US Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said:

“Chicago is a national epicenter of passenger, commuter and freight rail, but with that comes congestion, bottlenecks and delays. The Chicago Hub Improvement Program would not only improve rail service and reliability for folks in Chicago and throughout Illinois, it will mean fewer delays and safer service for the more than 30 million riders across all rail services who pass through Union Station each year.”

Over the last 15 years, ridership in Illinois has doubled and more than half of the country’s long-distance rides now begin or end at Union Station.

Beyond Illinois, the proposed improvements would also support expansions to Minneapolis/St. Paul and several Wisconsin destinations. Overall, more than 15 intercity passenger routes would benefit from the programme.

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