Illinois Capital Project List

A dude is standing in the cafe car of a TGV in France looking out the window at the windmaills and corn.

Illinois Capital Projects

Transportation projects are often evaluated in isolation—a method that doesn’t take into account the power of strategic investments or the way the benefits are broadly shared.

We need a big-picture approach that considers how each project will build on and improve existing Metra and Amtrak routes.

A unified approach—organized through a statewide rail plan—will expedite planning and construction, reduce capital expenses, and deliver big payoffs more quickly.

Below is a list of transit upgrades and expansions, as promoted by elected officials in Illinois. It provides a solid starting point for a statewide transit plan.

This working draft, last updated in February 2022, is provisional and intended as the beginning of a discussion. It’s not the final word.

Call us or send us a message if you have comments, questions, or a project to discuss.

Jump to:

A map showing a potential high-speed and regional rail network connecting all metros in Illinois to each other and to smaller twons.

Critical Projects for Statewide Network

Union Station Modernization (West Loop Transportation Center)

Learn more about modernizing Chicago Union Station

CrossRail Chicago

A dedicated, high-volume, high-speed passenger mainline though Cook County that links Amtrak, Metra, O’Hare Express and future high-speed service to Chicago Union Station and McCormick Place, and more. Learn more about CrossRail Chicago.

Consists of these projects that can be completed individually or together:

  • Milwaukee West expansion to improve service to Elgin and extend to Rockford
  • A-2 interlocking replacement and flyover
  • Union Station Modernization
  • O’Hare Airport train station
  • Metra Electric and South Shore state-of-good repair and upgrades

O’Hare Railroad Stations

1) Upgrade existing O’Hare Transfer station on Metra North Central line to connect to new consolidated rental car facility and Pace Bus. With proper track upgrades, more Metra lines and Amtrak from all directions can stop here.

2) A new station directly adjoining Terminal 2, for express trains from downtown.

Modern Multiple-Unit Trainsets

Ideal for new routes, like Chicago to Rockford, and mid-day Metra service. Supplements the current order for new coaches, which is insufficient even with contract option for more. Also requires new facility to maintain trainsets.

220-MPH High-Speed “Backbone”

75th Street Corridor Improvement Project (75th Street CIP)

Track improvements and flyovers to untagle a critical railroad junction. improves reliability for Amtrak routes to east and Metra Southwest service. Sets stage for dedicated passenger mainline from Chicago to Porter, IN. Improves freight service nationwide.

South Branch Chicago River Bridge

Many Amtrak and Metra routes must cross a 100-plus-year-old lift bridge over the Chicago River, immediately south of Union Station. The bridge must raise to allow boats to pass, and sometimes malfunctions. Even when working properly, bridge lifts can significantly delay trains. It should be modified to allow more boats to pass without lifting, or replaced with a higher-level fixed bridge.

Feeder Bus Network

Purchase state-owned buses to support network bus services linking smaller communities to the train network. Connections with trains are timed to be seamless, and bus travel is included on the same ticket with the train.

Corridor-Specific Projects

These corridor-specific projects are organized by the Metra route they use to reach Chicago.

Union Pacific North

  • Tower A-2 flyover to grade separate Milwaukee District lines from Union Pacific West
  • “State of good repair” maintence, track and signal upgrades
  • New station at Peterson/Ridge
  • Restore third track from Clybourn to Wilmette as part of bridge replacement project
  • Add peak hour express trains and begin all-day high-frequency (RER) service
  • Extend to Milwaukee

Milwaukee District

  • Tower A-2 flyover to grade separate Milwaukee District lines from Union Pacific West

Metra Milwaukee North

  • New Niles station
  • Add express trains and reverse peak period trips
  • Extend to Richmond, IL

Amtrak Hiawatha

  • Increase service to hourly departures, some with express stopping pattern
  • New station stop at Lake Forest

Metra North Central

  • Increase mid-day service
  • Replace O’Hare Transfer station

Metra Milwaukee West

Multiple grade separations parallel to Grand Ave (e.g. Harlem)
Track and signal upgrades to add express trains and additional reverse commute service

Blackhawk Corridor

  • Extends service beyond Elgin to Rockford, Belvidere, Marengo, and Huntley
  • Improves UP service to Chrysler plant and Rockford
  • Rebuild Union Pacific tracks and add connection to Metra Milwaukee West at Big Timber
  • Use modern multiple-unit equipment

Airport Express

  • Departures every 15-minutes from Union Station or Ogilvie to O’Hare
  • New station at Terminal 2

Metra Union Pacific Northwest

  • Yard improvements
  • Upgrade track and signals to enable more express service
  • Extend service to Johnsburg, IL
  • Extend service to Janesville, Wi and Madison, WI

Metra Union Pacific West

  • Complete triple tracking to increase express service
  • Extend service west to Dekalb and Rochelle

Metra BNSF

Amtrak Carl Sandburg/Illinois Zephyr, Amtrak Quad Cities Corridor

  • Track improvements to add more BNSF express service and add early morning arrival to Chicago and later departure from Chicago
  • Add new station stop at Oswego
  • Add 4 to 5 daily roundtrips to Geneseo, Moline

Metra Rock Island

Metra Suburban (Beverly) Branch

  • Establish high-frequency, all-day (RER) service to Blue Island
  • Install electrification

Metra Mainline

  • Add all-day express service

Illinois Valley Corridor

  • Establish new service to Minooka, Morris, Seneca, Marseilles, Ottawa, North Utica, La Salle/Peru & Peoria
  • Potential route for Quad Cities service

Amtrak Lincoln Corridor

  • Expand to at least 16 daily departures with early morning arrival to Chicago, Springfield and St. Louis
  • Faster access to Chicago via upgraded Metra Rock Island
  • Springfield railroad relocation
  • New bridge over the Mississippi to St. Louis

Metra Heritage Corridor

  • Use slots vacated by removing Amtrak Lincoln service to improve Metra commuter service

Metra Southwest Corridor

  • Connect to La Salle St. station (pending 75th St. CIP project)

Electric District

Metra Electric

  • Track and signal “state of good repair” and upgrades to re-establish high-frequency, all-day local and express service (RER)
  • Connect to O’Hare via CrossRail (16th St. Corridor/St. Charles Air Line)

South Shore Line (NICTD)

  • Take advantage of improved Metra Electric to allow more frequent, faster express service into Chicago
  • West Lake expansion
  • Complete double track to Michigan City

Amtrak Illini/Saluki

  • Add daily departures to Champaign and Carbondale
  • New connection to St. Louis at Centralia

Amtrak Michigan Service and Eastern Corridors

  • Build dedicated passenger line (South of the Lake Reroute) to bypass congested freight tracks


Replacement Stations

  • Carbondale
  • Clybourn
  • DuQuion
  • Glen Ellyn
  • O’Hare Transfer
  • Springfield

Station Upgrades

  • 59/60th Metra Electric
  • Joliet
  • La Salle Street
  • Lake Forest MD North
  • Normal Intermodal Center
  • O’Hare Transfer

New Station Locations

  • 79th/Auburn Park – Rock Island
  • Belvidere– Blackhawk
  • Decatur – High-Speed trunk
  • Dekalb – UP West
  • East Dubuque– Blackhawk
  • East St. Louis – High-Speed trunk
  • Eola – BNSF
  • Freeport– Blackhawk
  • Galena– Blackhawk
  • Geneseo – I-80 Quad Cities
  • Hampshire – Blackhawk
  • Huntley – Blackhawk
  • Johnsburg – UP Northwest
  • La Salle/Peru– Illinois River Valley
  • Marango– Blackhawk
  • Minooka– Illinois River Valley
  • Morris– Illinois River Valley
  • Niles- Milwaukee North
  • O’Hare Terminal 2 – Airport Express
  • Oswego – BNSF
  • Ottawa– Illinois River Valley
  • Peoria – Illinois River Valley
  • Peterson/Ridge – UP North
  • Prairie Grove – UP Northwest
  • Richmond – MD North
  • Ridgefield– UP Northwest
  • Rochelle – UP West
  • Rockford– Blackhawk
ICE Northbound near Lindburg

Making It Happen

The new Illinois High Speed Rail Commission is a great vehicle for producing a statewide rail plan. Few states have anything similar to the Commission. Creating a plan could be one of its core responsibilities.

But that will happen only if grassroots activists persuade state lawmakers to show strong leadership.

If you live in Illinois, please let your legislators know that you want the Commission to create a statewide rail plan—and that you want it to be funded.

Few things would move the needle in the Midwest and across America like a true plan for integrating rail and transit systems in Illinois.

Sign the Petition

It’s a Beautiful Country

Let’s see it. Let’s clean it. Let’s build it. Let’s make high speed rail a reality.

Donate Today

The Latest from HSRA

Our Latest Blog Posts

Check out the latest news, updates, and high speed rail insights from our blog!

Electric Trains are the Powerhouse EVs

Electric Trains are the Powerhouse EVs

Trains are the true EV powerhouse for cutting carbon emissions and fighting climate change. Here’s why. Lawmakers and business leaders alike are touting electric cars as a game-changer for climate change. And it’s true that cutting carbon pollution from vehicles is...

Shouldn’t You Be Able to Get to Montreal by Train?

Shouldn’t You Be Able to Get to Montreal by Train?

Montreal is a vibrant, exciting city. Unfortunately, Amtrak’s Adirondack will not travel north of Saratoga Springs, New York, from May 20 to June 29. This is the second year in a row that train service to Montreal has stopped during the summer travel season. Last...

Newsletter 5/17/24: High-Speed Rail Champions

Newsletter 5/17/24: High-Speed Rail Champions

Secretary Pete Wows Crowd at USHSR Conference Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was interviewed by former Secretary Ray LaHood in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the US High Speed Rail Conference this week. Here are my takeaways from a rather compelling...