Amtrak is coming off a record year for ridership. And it still hopes to re-establish service in northwest Illinois. That was supposed to happen near the end of this year. But supporters wonder if the project will get off the ground by then. Some also wonder if the new route will attract enough customers to sustain itself.
Amtrak is set to resume passenger service across northern Illinois from Chicago to Dubuque in 2014. Cities along the route are building new stations to handle the new Blackhawk Line. Some in Freeport see a chance to create much more than just a stop on the route.
Illinois will acquire new rail cars for all of the in-state Amtrak routes. Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said the new cars will address the increase in ridership experienced by the service for the past five or six years.
“They're going to be bi-level cars,” Schneider said. “It allows us to transport more passengers on the same footprint, so it makes it more efficient and it gives us opportunity to expand service without having to add train sets.”
Construction is expected to begin later this year on a new passenger train station in downtown Rockford. Governor Pat Quinn announced the state was putting three million dollars toward the effort during a news conference at the historic Tinker Swiss Cottage Tuesday afternoon -- not far from where the station will be built. The governor said not only is it important to look at transportation needs all over the state, it’s important to make sure northern Illinois is connected, especially Rockford.