Issue in Brief
Through The City, Across The Midwest, and Beyond
CrossRail Chicago would connect and upgrade existing Metra lines to create an electrified, passenger-dedicated mainline through the city.
This remarkable system would link O’Hare, the Loop and McCormick Place to each other, span the metro area with high-capacity passenger-focused, regional rail lines, and form the core of a Midwest high-speed rail network.
CrossRail would make travel into, out of and through the city easy. Metra service could be transformed, offering hundreds of new, convenient trips on fast, comfortable, modern “regional rail” trains. Cities and towns throughout the Midwest would gain convenient connections to the world through O’Hare.
The beauty of CrossRail is that all the major parts, the rail corridors and the stations, are already in place. Just a few key connections and upgrades are needed to pull everything together.
Early work is already underway, but Congress must fully fund the Federal Railroad Administration to turn this vision into reality.
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Foundation for a Modern Travel Network
Imagine a city where the trains run every 15 to 30 minutes, all through the day and into the night. Where business and leisure travelers alike can take an express trip to O’Hare from several city and suburban stations. Where Metra trains run through downtown—not just to downtown. Where you can easily catch fast and affordable trains to cities and universities across the Midwest.
CrossRail is at the center of making this a reality.
Making the Connection
Chicago is the nation’s rail hub and hosts some of the busiest freight railroads. Most of these routes cannot support high-frequency passenger trains.
Four lines stand out as potential passenger-focused corridors – the Union Pacific North and Northwest lines, the Rock Island line, and the Metra Electric line. They already serve dozens of Metra stations and could be the primary routes into and through Chicago for high-speed, intercity trains.
But they don’t go to Union Station and they don’t link to each other.
CrossRail will unite these four corridors into the backbone of a hyper-connected passenger rail network seamlessly linking Chicago’s top travel destinations with the suburbs and a constellation of Midwest cities and towns.
CrossRail is Like the Internet
A high-capacity channel that moves lots of different things very quickly.
The internet hosts the web, email, apps, videoconferencing, and all sorts of other communications. CrossRail would support many types of trips, including daily work trips, visiting family and friends, shopping trips, hospital visits, and a night on the town.
Through trains—between any station on the Rock Island and Metra Electric routes, to any station on the Milwaukee District routes—would become feasible.
One exciting possibility is a Metra Crosstown Express network.
Throughout the Midwest
CrossRail Chicago is the foundation for building a competitive regional and high-speed rail network. With trains that link cities throughout the Midwest, not just to downtown Chicago.
CrossRail Chicago is how trains from many cities and suburbs get to O’Hare. Connecting the entire Midwest to the world.
CrossRail creates thousands of new travel possibilities.
Faster and more affordable, comfortable, reliable – and just plain more enjoyable – than driving or flying.
Here are a few examples:
Hyde Park to O'Hare
Get on an O’Hare Express train at 57th Street and depart at the airport. Pretty simple.
Norwood Park to Tinley Park
An hour in traffic and a king’s ransom in tolls or an effortless half hour trip on a modern regional train. Which would you choose?
The New Commute
Champaign-Urbana to Chicago in about 45 minutes, the same as Metra’s express from Union Station to Naperville today.
Milwaukee to Indianapolis
Direct hourly service in both directions without changing trains. Less than half the time it takes to drive.
Making the Most of Existing Assets
CrossRail is a Midwest-thrifty approach, leveraging assets and rights-of-way already in place.
Chicago is blessed with an extensive latticework of railroads – many of them elevated above street level and arrow-straight for miles.
Targeted improvements to this existing system would offer staggering returns on many levels. Foremost, the sheer ease of modern rail travel would provide massive economic benefits.
Additionally, with more people choosing trains, CrossRail would help reduce traffic congestion. And with more intercity trains connecting directly to airports, O’Hare and other airports can focus on long-distance flights.
How We Make It Work: A Program of Projects
Most of the components of CrossRail have already been proposed by Amtrak, Metra and other agencies. The Illinois Department of Transportation needs to coordinate them as part of a Statewide Integrated Rail Plan.
Several High-Impact Projects are Key
The Chicago Department of Aviation should design and fund a new railroad station to prepare for CrossRail.
Metra should design a planned flyover at the A-2 Crossing and a new station near Fulton Market with CrossRail in mind.
Amtrak is rebuilding old mail platforms for level boarding and through running. Electrification needs to be added to their plans.
Making It Happen
Initial Work has begun
Amtrak has begun initial work through the Chicago Hub Improvement Program (CHIP).
But, Congress must fully fund the Federal Railroad Administration to make CrossRail Chicago a reality.