Advocates grow hopeful for new Illinois passenger trains

November 25, 2018

CHICAGO (AP) — Transportation advocates hope the new incoming Illinois governor will be able to help establish two new train routes connecting Chicago to the Quad Cities and Rockford.

Groups hope Democrat J.B. Pritzker will be able to revive the two projects, which have stalled in recent years, The Chicago Tribune reported .

The Quad Cities route would use BNSF tracks to the village of Wyanet before switching to rail owned by the Iowa Interstate Railroad.

Ray Forsythe is planning and development director with the city of Moline, which is part of the Quad Cities along the Illinois and Iowa border. Forsythe said he hopes Pritzker’s administration will emphasize passenger rail.

“We’re pretty excited,” he said.

The Rockford line would run from Chicago through Rockford to Dubuque, Iowa. The old Black Hawk train previously ran that route but stopped operations in 1981.

Democratic Illinois Sen. Steve Stadelman said the Rockford line is a popular idea in the northern part of the state. Moving the project forward will depend on gaining political support and financial contributions, he said.

“We have a new governor who talked about the importance of transportation infrastructure,” Stadelman said. “I hope he’s willing to take a look at the idea.”

Funding for the projects came from the 2009 capital bill. But the projects were put on pause in 2015, according to Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell. The Transportation Department has worked out extensions for the funding following concerns that the federal grant could expire, he said.

The state resumed planning and engineering work on the Quad Cities line in 2016, Tridgell said. The state has also begun talking with the Iowa Interstate last year, he said.

The state hasn’t resumed negotiation with Union Pacific on the Black Hawk route, which would run trains from Chicago through Rockford to Dubuque, Iowa, Tridgell said.

Amtrak is interested in operating both the Rockford and the Quad Cities routes, said Marc Magliari, a company spokesman, noting that studies of the routes show that they have high potential for passengers.

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