As home of the nation’s railroad hub, Illinois has a pivotal role to play in making high-speed rail a reality in the U.S.
And, Illinois needs to connect its universities, business centers and tourist attractions to each other and to O’Hare. Therefore, it’s critical that Illinois become aggressive about building high-speed and regional rail.
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 build the projects and the Illinois Department of Transportation’s budget is too small to provide the state match.
Freedom, Opportunity, and Prosperity Statewide
Illinois is huge. Residents in Cairo and Chicago might be in different countries. Champaign is a tedious drive to Quincy. And Chicago and O’Hare are hard for everyone to get to.
An integrated network of high-speed trains, regional trains and frequent buses can change that. It can make it easier for people to travel longer distances, work, and be home for dinner. It can allow businesses to expand their locations. It can make the entire state more productive and more connected.
Great trains are for everyone. It’s the fast track for growing Illinois.
Building on Success
Illinois has a long history of partnering with Amtrak, Metra, and privately-owned railroads to provide valuable links between Chicago and other Illinois communities. Ridership has grown steadily, despite infrequent departures and out-of-date trains.
We can build on these partnerships and build more track to:
- Run faster and more frequent passenger trains.
- Improve freight service.
- Make railroad crossing safer.
- Add new cities to the network.
Statewide regional rail will build stronger cites and towns, making the whole state better. A new Chicago – St. Louis high-speed backbone will make it all ten times better.
Metra operates eleven routes from four downtown stations. It is time to convert Metra to Regional Rail so that more people can take more trips throughout the day.
The South Shore operates frequent service to Michigan City, IN and five trains a day to South Bend. A big expansion program is adding more frequent trains on the mainline and build a new branch to Dyer.
Seven State-Supported routes link Chicago to downstate cities, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Michigan, These routes need much more frequent service.
Eight Inter-Regional routes radiate out from Chicago to the Coasts. These long neglected trains link small towns to big cities across the Midwest.
The State should create and fund a plan to expand and coordinate all these routes.
Chicago and St. Louis are about the same distance as Madrid and Seville. High-speed trains have connected the Spanish cities with a 2:20 minute trip-time since 1993. Illinois needs to catch up.
The Illinois Department of Transportation completed a initial feasibility study of a new high-speed line in 2014. In 2021, the Federal Railroad Administration including a new high-speed line in their regional framework.
The Illinois High Speed Railway Commission is charged with creating an integrated state rail plan with a Chicago – St. Louis high speed line as the trunk.
Chicago – St. Louis 110-mph project
The Illinois Department of Transportation partnered with the Union Pacific Railroad to rebuild the Joliet to East St. Louis portion of the Chicago – St. Louis Lincoln Corridor.
Often referred to as “high-speed rail”, this was a high-value rebuild of a shared-use line and offers important lessons for shared-use lines across the country.
Critical Chicago-Area Projects
Several big projects in Illinois will have huge benefits far beyond the state borders.
Corridors in Illinois
Current progress on – and our ideas for – corridors across Illinois.
(check back for future corridor pages)
UP North Corridor
Chicago – Kenosha – (Racine) – (Milwaukee)
Milwaukee District North Corridor
Chicago – Fox Lake / Milwaukee
UP Northwest Corridor
Chicago – Barrington – Harvard – (Janesville) – (Madison)
North Central Corridor
Chicago – O’Hare – Antioch
UP West Corridor
Chicago – West Chicago – Elburn – (Dekalb)
Chicago – Aurora – Galesburg – Quincy – (Hannibal)
Rock Island Corridor
Chicago – Joliet – (Starved Rock) – (Peoria) – (Quad Cities)
Metra SouthWest Service
Chicago – Orland Park – Manhattan
Illinois Central Corridor
Chicago – Kankakee – Champaign – (Decatur) – Carbondale – Memphis
South Shore Corridor
Chicago – Michigan City – South Bend / (Dyer)
Cedar Rapids – Quad Cities – Galesburg – Peoria – Champaign – Danville – Indianapolis
South of the Lake
We need a passenger dedicated line to funnel trains from multiple corridors into Chicago.
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.