[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Mark Kirk, Representative Mike Quigley, Amtrak and Metra recently announced an additional $7 million in funding to develop infrastructure improvements and train operating strategies that will enhance passenger rail service at Chicago’s Union Station. The funds will be used to conduct a Terminal Planning Study and create a Service Development Plan that will increase capacity at the 90-year-old station and on the railroads that lead to it. This builds on the announcement in January 2015 that Amtrak has made a commitment of $12 million to continue renovations of Union Station this year. In the coming weeks and months, Emanuel will continue to work in coordination with the United States Department of Transportation, the State of Illinois, Metra and Amtrak to facilitate a complete overhaul of Union Station that will require a multi-year, $500-million investment.
“Union Station provides an essential link to jobs and economic opportunities for residents in neighborhoods throughout the city of Chicago and these resources will help us ensure that it serves our city more effectively for the future,” said Emanuel. “With the help of these federal resources, Union Station will be able to keep pace with rising demand on our railways to remain an economic engine for Chicago and keep our city on the move for many more decades to come.”
“Union Station serves as the gateway to Chicago for thousands of commuters and visitors every day,” said Durbin. “Yet most are met with congestion on the rails and within the station. With this infusion of federal, state and local funding, we’ll be easing rail congestion outside the station and laying the groundwork for a vast improvement of the passenger experience inside the station. I commend Mayor Emanuel and Amtrak for having the vision to reimagine a Union Station with improved air quality, pedestrian flow and retail space and look forward to working with them to make it a reality.”
Chicago’s Union Station is the third-busiest railroad terminal in the U.S., serving over 300 trains per weekday carrying nearly 125,000 arriving and departing passengers—a level of passenger traffic that would rank it among the 15 busiest airports in the U.S. Due to this, the station currently operates at or near capacity during peak periods. Moreover, demand for both passenger and freight rail service throughout the Chicago region is expected to continue to grow considerably in the years ahead. Chicago’s ability to capture this railroad traffic will generate an estimated 17,200 jobs over a 10-year timeframe and up to $7 billion in annual production.
“As the only Illinois member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’m proud to help bring much needed funding back to the city of Chicago. Today, we take an important step towards a faster, more efficient, and environmentally conscious transportation system,” said Quigley. “By developing a 21st century infrastructure plan, we can ease congestion on the tracks, take more cars off the streets, and improve air quality for our great city and our region.”
“As Illinois’ most senior member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a chief proponent of the CREATE rail modernization program, I fought in 2013 alongside Congressman Quigley to get unspent federal funds reprogrammed for rail safety and improvement projects,” said Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3). “Today, I’m proud to announce that our region is getting some of those funds to develop a plan to ease congestion on our rail lines, benefitting passengers using Union Station and aiding economic growth by improving freight movement. This will be a great help to so many of my constituents who want safer and more efficient rail traffic through our region.”
The Terminal Planning Study and Service Development Plan will help to coordinate routes and operations and enhance passenger rail service into and out of Union Station for travelers and commuters approaching Chicago from the east, south and west. More than 700 commuter and passenger rail trains and 500 freight trains operate each day in the Chicagoland area. Union Station is the busiest railroad station in Chicago, serving approximately 115,000 Metra and 10,000 Amtrak passengers every weekday.
In 2014, 32.5 million Metra customers arrived or departed on commuter trains at Union Station. Meanwhile, nearly 2.3 million passenger trips were made between Union Station and destinations throughout the Midwest using Amtrak’s state-supported passenger train services. An additional 1.1 million trips to and from Union Station were made on Amtrak’s long distance trains. Train ridership is forecast to increase significantly in the next few years as major track improvements are completed and new rail cars are introduced.
“Like flying, when delays taxing to and from the runway are frustrating, on some Amtrak routes the delays are often in the miles closest to Chicago Union Station,” said Derrick James of Amtrak Government Affairs. “This grant will go a long way toward fixing those problems, so investments in higher-speed Amtrak routes in downstate Illinois, Northern Indiana and Michigan are not negated by trains crawling in—or even backing out—at Union Station.”
The Terminal Planning Study and Service Development Plan are critical steps towards increasing Union Station’s capacity while enabling the station to better connect Chicago’s neighborhoods and suburban communities and provide residents with access to jobs, accommodate high-speed and intercity trains and passengers, reduce congestion to improve passenger safety, and improve intermodal connections.
The funding includes $3 million from the Federal Railroad Administration that will be matched by $2 million from the State of Illinois, $1 million from Metra and $1 million in tax increment financing (TIF) from the city of Chicago.
In addition to this study, in the coming months, Emanuel will work with Amtrak, Metra and state and federal partners to initiate improvements recommended in the Union Station Master Plan. Investing in transit infrastructure and transit-oriented development supports Emanuel’s efforts to enhance quality of life and create jobs for residents in neighborhoods across Chicago.
The rehabilitation of Union Station will be supported by projects already underway to expand its role as a central and growing transit hub, linking neighborhoods to jobs, and neighboring states and counties to Chicago. These projects include building the Union Station Transportation Center, a consolidated Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus terminal on city-owned land next to Union Station that will anchor the new Loop Link. This new corridor will connect Amtrak, Metra, all of CTA’s downtown rail lines and many downtown destinations, resulting in faster, more reliable transit serving residents and commuters across all of Chicago’s neighborhoods.