Issue in Brief
We need fast, affordable, and reliable ways to get around.
To attract dynamic businesses and keep young graduates and families here, Illinois needs to connect its universities, business centers and tourist attractions to each other and to O’Hare.
That means a statewide program to connect all of our cities to each other with fast trains and more frequent buses.
There are many proposed expansions that, if completed, would connect the entire state and new federal funds are available to build them..
The state lacks a plan to coordinate the projects and the Illinois Department of Transportation’s budget is too small to provide the state match.
What would we get?
- Fast, frequent and affordable trains linking cities throughout the state to each other, and to Chicago, Springfield and St. Louis. Catch a train in the morning, arrive in time for a 9:00 am business meeting, then be back home for dinner.
- Modernized Metra “Regional Rail”
- Fast, easy access to O’Hare, the Midwest’s gateway to the world
- Expanded transit systems throughout the state
- Enhanced bus links to smaller communities
The good news is that the state has a long history of investing in passenger trains, including Amtrak, Metra, and the South Shore. And, the official state rail plan lists most of the projects needed to connect the state.
What’s missing is a coordinated phasing plan and the funding to build it.
A new station at Dwight and new locomotives were built in the first phase of the Chicago – St. Louis Corridor Improvement project. photo: Rick Harnish
What needs to happen?
Finish Existing Projects
New service to the Quad Cities and Rockford; and improvements to the Champaign and Springfield routes are quick wins.
Make a Plan
The Illinois High Speed Railway Commission is charged with developing the plan.
Fund the Plan
The legislature will need to address transit funding in 2024. Statewide improvements should be in the mix.
An Amtrak Surfliner at Oceanside, CA. photo: Rick Harnish
Who has done this before?
California has been investing heavily in passenger rail, intercity buses, and local transit since 1990. They published the first integrated rail plan in 2018.
The visionary California rail plan will produce a stunning increase in ridership and revenue.