January 17, 2012

ROCKFORD (Jan. 17)—Gov. Pat Quinn said the state will contribute $3 million to develop a multi-modal passenger station that will serve the new state-supported Amtrak service planned to connect Chicago with Rockford, Freeport, Galena and Dubuque.

Total cost of the new facility is expected to be $12 million, including design and engineering. The Illinois Department of Transportation and the City of Rockford said they will work to obtain additional funds for actual construction so that the station will be ready when the first trains start running in late 2014.

“Investing in Rockford is good for Illinois,” Gov. Quinn said during an appearance at the station site just south of downtown Rockford. “Not only will we create a new station and Amtrak service, we’ll create new jobs and attract more economic development to the Rockford area. Illinois residents will have additional travel options and reduced travel time from Rockford to the Chicago area and to western parts of our state.”

UTU Assistant State Director Bob Blomgren attended the ceremony at the invitation of the governor.

“We showed in 2006 that ridership in Illinois will grow, and even explode, when you give the citizens expanded and improved service,” Blomgren said. “We expect nothing less with the creation of this new Amtrak service to Rockford and on west to Galena and Dubuque.”

Pat Zuroske, the city’s capital improvement manager, said the new depot has been sited and designed to serve as the anchor of a Transit Oriented Development—a mixed-use development that will use the availability of passenger rail service to attract residential units, offices, stores and restaurants to property immediately adjacent to the station.

The new service will operate over Canadian National Railway’s former Illinois Central Iowa Division. Until the late 1960s the IC operated two passenger trains over the route, the “Land O’ Corn” between Chicago and Waterloo, Ia., and the overnight “Hawkeye” to Sioux City. In 1974 Amtrak inaugurated a train known as the “Black Hawk” over the Chicago-Dubuque segment, but it suffered from poor track and ancient equipment and was eliminated during the Reagan administration’s 1981 budget cuts. CN has since upgraded the track, and more modern rolling stock is expected to be available by the time the new service starts.

“This is great news for Illinois,” said IDOT Sec. Ann Schneider. “Under the leadership of Gov. Quinn, the grant allocated for this project is expected to provide easy access for Amtrak passengers to and from the Rockford metropolitan area. The new facility will encourage the public to use transit as a mode of transportation and expand community access.”