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Amtrak’s bold expansion plan would create daily Chicago-Toronto round trip, increase service to Detroit, Milwaukee

The plan hinges on an initial $75 billion in federal funding over the next 15 years. 

An Amtrak train Sun-Times file photo

Amtrak on Thursday detailed a sweeping nationwide expansion plan that would give Chicagoans the ability to hop an international train to Toronto, Canada, or ride up to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to watch the Bears play at Lambeau Field.

Amtrak’s pitch, laid out in a glossy 76-page report, also notably increases the number of daily round trips from Chicago to Detroit, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

But the bold plan hinges on an initial $75 billion in federal funding over the next 15 years. In a letter Wednesday to Congress, Amtrak CEO William Flynn urged lawmakers to support separate pieces of legislation providing “dedicated, predictable, and sufficient funding” and preventing freight trains from stymying Amtrak service.

Flynn also asked legislators to authorize the development of new railway corridors, which he noted would initially be paid for with federal funds and later supported by states.

“Now is the time to invest in our country’s infrastructure and future,” Flynn said in a statement. “New and improved rail service has the ability to change how our country moves and provides cleaner air, less traffic and a more connected country.”

By 2035, Amtrak plans to make the following changes affecting Illinois riders:

  • Double the number of round trips between Chicago and Detroit to six each day, extending one high-speed train to Toronto, Canada;
  • Add two daily round trips from Chicago to both Rockford and Iowa City, Iowa.
  • Expand the number of round trips from Chicago to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from seven to 10 each day;
  • Extend four of those trains to Madison, three to Green Bay and three to the Twin Cities in Minnesota;
  • Improve service from Chicago to St. Louis, sending one train each day to Kansas City, Missouri;
  • Reduce the travel time on two round trips between Chicago and Carbondale, with a daily expansion to Champaign;
  • Expand to eight daily round trips from Chicago to Indianapolis, Indiana, with some trains continuing to Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky.