Governor JB Pritzker was joined today by Mayor McNamara and other state and local officials to announce a partnership between the Illinois Department of Transportation
to once again provide safe and reliable passenger rail between Chicago and Rockford, restoring service that was discontinued in 1981. The first trains are anticipated to start running by late 2027, offering efficient, economical travel with stops in between the two cities.
The project is funded through $275 million from Gov. Pritzker’s historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program.
To return passenger trains between Chicago and Rockford after more than 40 years, Metra will utilize its Milwaukee District West line and relationships with the Union Pacific Railroad to extend service beyond Elgin to reach Rockford, with expected stops in Huntley and Belvidere.
Other project components include improved grade crossings, upgraded bridges, and double-tracking at various locations. Stations also will be built in Huntley and Belvidere.
With these improvements, travel time is anticipated to be slightly less than two hours between the two cities, with two round trips per day planned. Boarding locations in Chicago and Rockford, as well as a fare structure and schedule, are still to be determined.
A new website, chicagotorockfordrail.org
, offers an overview of the project. Status updates will be provided in the coming months, and public informational meetings will be scheduled as well.
Pending Metra board approval, the next phases of the project involve reaching operations and maintenance agreements between IDOT, Metra, and Union Pacific. Also required are engineering studies to determine the scope of track improvements needed to support increasing speeds from existing freight operations that peak at 40 mph to enable passenger speeds of 79 mph between Elgin and Rockford. To reach Rockford, a connection ultimately will have to be built between Metra and the Union Pacific tracks in Elgin.
"I am thrilled that we are one giant step closer to having passenger rail service from Rockford to Chicago. It has been a long time in the making and something that a lot of people didn’t believe would actually happen,” says Mayor McNamara. "This southwest quadrant of our community is starting to really come alive, including new features and activities at Klehm Arboretum, Tinker Swiss, Clarence Hicks Park, Levings Lake and Ethnic Heritage Museum, as well as the development of the Water Power Lofts. On Monday, I'm hoping we continue that momentum by passing the Barber Colman redevelopment agreement, which will be another critical improvement in the area."