Metra service between Chicago and Rockford to begin in 2027

The last time passenger trains connected the two cities was in 1981.

SHARE Metra service between Chicago and Rockford to begin in 2027
A Metra train arrives in the Loop,

Metra plans to extend the Milwaukee District West line to Rockford.

Sun-Times file

Metra plans to open a route between Chicago and Rockford that will offer two daily round trips when it becomes operational in 2027, officials announced Thursday.

Passenger trains haven’t run between the two cities since 1981.

Metra will use its Milwaukee District West line and relationships with the Union Pacific Railroad to extend service beyond Elgin to reach Rockford, with expected stops in Huntley and Belvidere.

The trip is expected to take about 95 minutes.

Boarding locations in Chicago and Rockford, as well as a fare structure and schedules, are still to be determined.

“This makes Rockford and every community along the line even more attractive as a home to families and to businesses,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who attended a news conference in Rockford on Thursday morning to announce the new rail service.

“This is a major step for Illinois — bringing back the two largest regions of Illinois through passenger rail,” Metra CEO Jim Derwinski said.

The new line will spur job growth and reduce vehicular air pollution, officials said.

The project will be funded by $275 million from the Rebuild Illinois capital program.

To reach Rockford, a connection ultimately will have to be built between Metra and the Union Pacific tracks in Elgin. Work will also include improved grade crossings, upgraded bridges, and stations that will be built in Huntley and Belvidere.

A new website, chicagotorockfordrail.org, offers an overview of the project.

Pending Metra board approval, the next phases of the project involve reaching operations and maintenance agreements between IDOT, Metra, and Union Pacific.

Engineering studies are also required to determine the scope of track improvements needed to support increasing speeds from existing freight operations that peak at 40 mph to enable passenger speeds of 79 mph between Elgin and Rockford.

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