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The general population growth along the eastern portion of this corridor has been strong over the past decade, but passenger train service formerly provided by Amtrak ceased in 1981. Highway traffic volumes on Interstate 90 (Northwest Tollway) between Chicago and Rockford are significant; with frequent backups the closer one gets to Chicago. Rockford is a major residential and commercial center and the largest metropolitan area in Illinois without passenger rail service. Between Rockford and the OHare Airport area, many new residential developments have been established. Further west, Galena is a significant destination city for tourism, especially during the summer and fall. At Dubuque, there is an aggressive plan under way to redevelop the downtown property along the Mississippi River.
Following receipt of the study request, a number of alternative rail routes were identified as candidates for this service. Physical evaluations of the routes were conducted with host railroad personnel, including inspections, assessments of capital needs, and identification of operational challenges. Revenue/ridership forecasts were determined based on recommended schedules, and estimates of cost to operate the service were developed. The goal was to prepare a high-level and objective report of the findings, in response to IDOTs request, for further discussion.
Three alternative routes were identified as potentially feasible for establishment of Amtrak service between Chicago and Rockford, with only one route being practical between Rockford and Dubuque. These alternatives are shown on the map above. Each requires a different level of capital investment to make the service a practical reality.
Although there have been general discussions and field inspections with the host freight railroads, the specific infrastructure improvement proposals, draft schedules and other railroad-related comments have not been negotiated or agreed to with the host freight railroads and reflect only the findings and best judgment recommendations of the study team. Should further progression of one of the alternative proposals be desired, detailed discussions and negotiations will have to be initiated with those rail carriers (emphasis added).
from the March 14-20, 2007, issue