Illinois capital projects

This is a list of transit upgrades and expansions as promoted by elected officials in Illinois.  They are the starting point for a statewide transit plan.

In today's political and planning environment, the cost and benefits of each of these projects are evaluated seperately. In isolation, the related infrastructure investments required to complete a project can add up quickly, making that cost-benefit analysis look poor. But, many of these related investments, such as upgrading a major junction near Chicago, have direct benefits for multiple projects.

It would more effective to adopt a unified approach and treat these projects as a series of building blocks, added to existing Metra and Amtrak routes. This unified approach, organized through a statewide rail plan, would expedite planning and construction, reduce capital expenses and bring broader benefits more quickly.

This is a working draft, intended to be the beginning of a discussion. It was last updated January 9, 2019. Please call us at 773-334-6758 or send us a message if you have comments, questions, or a project to discuss.

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Critical projects for statewide network

Union Station Modernization (West Loop Transportation Center)

Learn more about modernizing Chicago Union Station >>

Phase I: $250 million

  • Widen platforms to improve passenger access and safety
  • Safety upgrades, ADA improvements and improved pedestrian access to and from street
  • Install two platforms with level-boarding serving four through tracks (old mail platforms)

Phase II: $1 billion

  • New tunnel and platforms for high-speed trains
  • New CTA north-south subway line

CrossRail Chicago

A dedicated, high-volume, high-speed passenger mainline though Cook County that links Amtrak, Metra, O'Hare Express and future high-speed service to Chicago Union Station and McCormick Place, and more. Learn more about CrossRail Chicago.

Consists of these projects that can be completed individually or together:

  • Milwaukee West expansion to improve service to Elgin ($500 million) and extend to Rockford ($200 million) (see below)
  • A-2 interlocking replacement and flyover
  • Union Station Modernization (see above)
  • O’Hare Airport train station (see below)
  • Metra Electric and NICTD (see below) state-of-good repair and upgrades

O’Hare Railroad Station

Phase I: Upgrade existing station on Metra North Central line to connect to new consolidated rental car facility and Pace Bus. With proper track upgrades, more Metra lines and Amtrak from all directions can stop here.

Phase II: A new station directly underneath the rebuilt Terminal 2, accessible by tunnels from both ends. Allows trains from around the region and the Midwest to directly serve the airport's biggest terminal.

40 New Metra Locomotives and 400 Modern Coaches

Replace 40-year-old locomotives on various Metra routes with more reliable, low-emissions locomotives. Reduces operating costs and improves reliability.

Replace coaches ranging from 60 to 40 years old. Modern design means lower floors for easier access, better bike storage, reduced operating costs and improved reliability.

24 Modern Amtrak coaches

$200 million

Add-on option to existing contract for new Siemens-designed single-level coaches.

Modern multiple-unit trainsets

Amtrak is looking to switch to modern multiple-unit trainsets that operate as a unified set and have power distributed throughout, instead of requiring a locomotive. Ideal for new routes, like Chicago to Rockford, and mid-day Metra service. Supplements the current order for new coaches, which is insufficient even with contract option for more. Also requires new facility to maintain trainsets.

220-mph high-speed “backbone” study


Develop sstatewide ridership and revenue model to support business plan for a new 220-mph high-speed line linking Chicago to St. Louis through Champaign-Urbana and Springfield. Model will include connections to all passenger rail and long-distance bus routes in state.

75th Street Corridor Improvement Project (CREATE)

$2 billion

Track improvements and flyovers to untagle a critical railroad junction. improves reliability for Amtrak routes to east and Metra Southwest service. Sets stage for dedicated passenger mainline from Chicago to Porter, IN. Improves freight service nationwide.

South Branch Chicago River Bridge

Many Amtrak and Metra routes must cross a 100-plus-year-old lift bridge over the Chicago River, immediately south of Union Station. The bridge must raise to allow boats to pass, and sometimes malfunctions. Even when working properly, bridge lifts can significantly delay trains. It should be modified to allow more boats to pass without lifting, or replaced with a higher-level fixed bridge.

Feeder Bus Network

Purchase state-owned buses to support network bus services linking smaller communities to the train network. Connections with trains are timed to be seamless, and bus travel is included on the same ticket with the train.

Corridor-specific projects

These corridor-specific projects are organized by the Metra route they use to reach Chicago.

Metra Union Pacific North

  • Tower A-2 flyover to grade separate Milwaukee District lines from Union Pacific West

$961 million

  • "State of good repair" maintence, track and signal upgrades
  • New station at Peterson/Ridge
  • Restore third track from Clybourn to Wilmette as part of bridge replacement project
  • Add peak hour express trains and begin all-day high-frequency (RER) service using modern multiple-unit equipment
  • New coach yard

Metra Milwaukee District and Amtrak Hiawatha

  • Tower A-2 flyover to grade separate Milwaukee District lines from Union Pacific West

$681 million for Milwaukee North

  • Upgrade track and signals, extend service to Richmond, IL

$150 million for Amtrak Hiawatha

  • Upgrade track and signals to increase Amtrak service to 10 daily roundtrips from 7, some with express stopping pattern
  • New station stop at Lake Forest

$501 million for North Central

  • Upgrade track and signals to increase mid-day service, enable O'Hare Express service

$629 million for Metra Milwaukee West

  • Multiple grade separations parallel to Grand Ave (e.g. Harlem)
  • Track and signal upgrades to add express trains and additional reverse commute service

$233 million for Blackhawk Corridor

  • Extends service beyond Elgin to Rockford, Belvidere, Marengo, and Huntley
  • Improves UP service to Chrysler plant and Rockford
  • Rebuild Union Pacific tracks and add connection to Metra Milwaukee West at Big Timber
  • Use modern multiple-unit equipment

Airport Express

  • A train every 15-minutes from Union Station or Ogilvie to O'Hare
  • Use modern multiple-unit equipment

Metra Union Pacific Northwest

$703 million

  • Yard improvements
  • Upgrade track and signals to enable more express service
  • Extend service to Johnsburg, IL

Metra Union Pacific West

$460 million

  • Complete triple tracking to increase express service
  • Extend service west to Dekalb

Metra BNSF, US-34 Amtrak Carl Sandburg/Illinois Zephyr, I-80 Amtrak Quad Cities Corridor

$385 million (for Metra portion)

  • Track improvements to add more BNSF express service and add early morning arrival to Chicago and later departure from Chicago
  • Add new station stop at Oswego
  • Add 2-3 daily roundtrips to existing Quad Cities corridor plans

Metra Rock Island and Illinois Valley service

$563 million (for Metra portion)

  • Establish high-frequency, all-day (RER) service to Blue Island
  • Install electrification
  • Track improvements and new rolling stock to establish new service to Minooka, Morris, Seneca, Marseilles, Ottawa, North Utica, La Salle/Peru & Peoria

I-55 Amtrak Lincoln Corridor

  • Track improvements to add early morning arrival to Chicago and a mid-afternoon departure from Springfield
  • Faster access to Chicago via upgraded Metra Rock Island
  • Springfield railroad relocation
  • New bridge over the Mississippi to St. Louis
  • Normal – Peoria connection

Metra Heritage Corridor

$271 million

  • Use slots vacated by removing Amtrak Lincoln service to improve Metra commuter service

Metra Southwest Corridor

$283 million

  • Connect to La Salle St. station (pending 75th St. CREATE project)

Metra Electric District

$750 million

  • Track and signal "state of good repair" and upgrades to re-establish high-frequency, all-day local and express service (RER)
  • Connect to O’Hare via CrossRail (16th St. Corridor/St. Charles Air Line)

South Shore Line (NICTD)

  • Take advantage of improved Metra Electric to allow more frequent, faster express service into Chicago
  • West Lake expansion
  • Complete double track to Michigan City

Amtrak Michigan Service and Eastern Corridors

  • Build dedicated passenger line (South of the Lake Reroute) to bypass congested freight tracks

Replacement Stations

  • Carbondale Intermodal Center - $30 million (Combine Amtrak, Greyhound, Jackson County Mass Transit into single facility)
  • DuQuion – I-57
  • Springfield trunk station on high-speed line
  • Glen Ellyn – UP West

Station Upgrades

  • La Salle Street (Prepare for Southwest Service trains)
  • Normal Intermodal Center (Add pedestrian underpasses connecting platforms)
  • Lake Forest MD North station - $20 million (Add pedestrian underpasses connecting platforms)
  • Joliet (Finish planned bus station at new train station)
  • 59/60th Metra Electric

New Station Locations

  • O’Hare (Phase I along North Central Service and Phase II inside terminal)
  • Eola - BNSF
  • Peterson/Ridge - UP North
  • 79th/Auburn Park - Rock Island
  • Oswego – US 34
  • Dekalb – UP North
  • Huntley – Blackhawk/MD West
  • Marango– Blackhawk/MD West
  • Belvidere– Blackhawk/MD West
  • Rockford– Blackhawk/MD West
  • Freeport– Blackhawk/MD West
  • Galena– Blackhawk/MD West
  • East Dubuque– Blackhawk/MD West
  • Geneseo - I-80 Quad Cities
  • Peoria – Illinois River Valley
  • Decatur – High-Speed trunk
  • Morris– Illinois River Valley
  • La Salle/Peru– Illinois River Valley
  • Ottawa– Illinois River Valley
  • Minooka– Illinois River Valley
  • East St. Louis - High-Speed trunk
  • Prairie Grove – UP Northwest
  • Johnsburg – UP Northwest
  • Ridgefield– UP Northwest
  • Richmond – MD North