The nation’s railroad hub has a pivotal role in making high-speed and regional rail a reality in the U.S.
Chicago has direct service to 525 stations in 36 states, with the potential for many more. At least fifteen regional corridors depend upon fixing Chicago to succeed.
Planning is underway on multiple, long-overdue projects. A selection of the more important projects are listed below.
Ultimately, a federally-led railway program, similar to the Interstate Highway Program, is needed to coordinate and fund the needed work.
Illinois can get the process started by creating an integrated plan for Chicago as part of a new state railway program.
Lawmakers across the Midwest should advocate for more ambitious plans and bigger investments—and push for serious funding and support from Congress and the FRA.
At least 15 Midwest corridors depend upon fixing Chicago.
Big Picture Ideas
There are several big picture concepts regarding Chicago with overlapping projects and different scopes. Selected high-impact projects are listed in the next section.
The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program is a group of projects that multiple agencies and railroads have agreed to coordinate and fund cooperatively.
CrossRail Chicago is the High Speed Rail Alliance’s vision for creating a passenger-dedicated, electrified mainline through Chicago.
The Chicago Hub Improvement Project is Amtrak’s branding for a group of projects to improve Chicago Union Station and access to it.
There are several projects that are essential to making high-speed and regional rail work right in the Midwest and Nationally.
O’Hare, the Midwest’s gateway to the world, could be easily reached by trains from around the region. In the near term, a new station connected to the consolidated rental car facility and the intermodal center can offer easy access for trains.
Union Station is already operating beyond capacity. The station needs to be dramatically re-designed to handle expected growth. It also needs new electrified tracks that pass through the station.
The 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project is the largest CREATE project. It will remove one of the biggest bottlenecks in the MIdwest and have far reaching benefits for shippers, passengers, and drivers alike.
A-2 is one of the busiest and most complicated rail intersections in North America with 350 trains crossing paths here every day. A flyover is needed,
Rock Island Corridor
Metra’s Rock Island route could become a passenger-focused mainline for regional trains to St. Louis, Peoria, and Omaha.
A new connector is needed to link Metra’s Electric and Rock Island routes to through tracks at Union Station.
No planning is underway, but electrification should be expanded beyond Metra’s electric route. The Rock Island, UP North, and UP Northwest are prime candidates.
the 21st Street bridge is a critical part of the national railroad network. It needs to be prioritized for replacement with the same urgency that Amtrak is putting on the Portal Bridge and others on the Northeast Corridor.
The Illinois General Assembly is debating the future transit and regional rail right now. The package should include a State Railway Program to invest in bridges, trainsets, and better track.