State, local leaders pitch $1.1B infrastructure plan to feds in effort to revamp Union Station

Thursday, August 3, 2023
Local leaders pitch $1.1B infrastructure plan to feds
Millions pass through Union Station annually, using Metra and Amtrak Chicago. Gov. JB Pritzker, Sen. Dick Durbin and others want to revamp it.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- State and local leaders were making a new push Thursday to get federal funding to help improve the rail infrastructure in the Chicago area.

The billion-dollar project would revamp Union Station and the surrounding tracks.

The lawmakers said this plan would continue to keep Chicago on the map as the third busiest transit hub in the country.

Federal, state and local leaders are calling for federal investment in the Chicago rail system.

Gov. JB Pritzker, along with Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Congressman Mike Quigley, Mayor Brandon Johnson and other state and city leaders are proposing the $1.1 billion infrastructure plan, called the Chicago Hub Improvement Project, to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"And really, this project isn't just about Chicago. It's not even just about Illinois. It's about the entire nation," Duckworth said.

The plan would revamp the nearly 100-year-old Union Station and its many rail lines, mostly through federal grants.

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The upgraded track work will allow the station to add more trains and potentially add a 15-minute high-speed rail service to O'Hare and connect dozens of cities with Amtrak service.

"It would unlock a vast system of new and expanded passenger rail services throughout the Midwest, with Chicago's Union Station serving as the hub," Pritzker said. "We're at the center of the nation's transportation system, in part because we're the most important rail hub in America for Amtrak freight and commercial rail."

The proposed projects would include upgrades in service for passengers traveling to and from Michigan as well as other parts of the Midwest.

They would also improve platforms and upgrade concourses.

"It is going to change the way people experience Metra and Amtrak and then for those that like the rail network, the shippers are going to notice it, the freight railroads are going to notice it and the on time performance for all of us is going to go up," Metra CEO Jim Derwinski said.

This plan would require $873 million in federal funding, as well as $218 million matching funds coming from the state, county and city, plus funding from the state of Michigan.

"In the past 15 years, the number of trains on Illinois tracks have doubled," Durbin said.

More than 30 million riders pass through Union station every year.

"This program is the ballgame. We have to get this done," said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Chicago.

Improvements have not kept pace, leaders said.

"The bipartisan infrastructure law does in fact represent a once in a generation opportunity to remedy all those things that have not been done in the past," said Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Amtrak Board.

The state is expecting a decision on the grant application could be made by the end of the year. And leaders are cautiously optimistic that the money will be forthcoming to begin making the necessary improvements.