Amtrak has submitted applications for $873 million in Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) funding for the Chicago Hub Improvement Program (CHIP) to “provide faster and more reliable service to support the Midwest’s growing ridership.”
According to the railroad, the Federal-State Partnership Program, which has been put together by Amtrak, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), Cook County, Metra, and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), together with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), is planned to “transform regional and long-distance Amtrak and Metra commuter rail service by better connecting job centers, reducing its carbon footprint and shortening travel times.”
The announcement came at a press conference that took place this morning near Amtrak’s Chicago rail yard featuring IDOT Secretary Omer Osman, Gov. JB Pritzker, Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Congressman Mike Quigley, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia, Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski, and Rheaply CEO and P33 Board Member Garry Cooper Jr.
According to a CMAP brochure (download below) outlining the program, the Federal/State Partnership grant application is supported by a broad coalition of regional government and industry leaders, including labor, business, and environmental groups. This phase, which actually totals $1.1 billion, includes the $873 million FRA investment supported through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Amtrak and its partners have committed a remaining $218 million investment, and are working closely with local, state, and federal stakeholders to bring attention to the program.
The program is divided into three categories of improvements:
- Chicago Union Station (CUS)
- Chicago Area Infrastructure
- Chicago to Michigan Infrastructure
This IIJA grant, according to the CMAP brochure, “creates a unique opportunity for Amtrak and its partners to submit a thoughtful plan of investment that will expand capacity, eliminate bottlenecks in the network, and improve air quality, accessibility, reliability, and customer experience for more than 30 million passengers annually.”
Amtrak says its mission is to provide “efficient and effective intercity passenger rail mobility consisting of high-quality service that is trip-time competitive with other modes.” CHIP’s benefits include:
- Enabling Midwest service expansion.
- Creating a faster and more reliable means of access to CUS.
- Modernizing the nearly century-old CUS to provide code-compliant, accessible, and modern platforms and concourse in preparation for the anticipated growth of both intercity and commuter ridership.
- Spurring equitable economic growth across the Midwest.
- Providing safety benefits resulting from the diversion of passengers away from automobile, resulting in estimated reductions in highway fatalities.
- Yielding environmental benefits from diverting passengers from cars, furthering the President’s vision of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030, and net zero by 2050 (Amtrak trains emit up to 83% fewer greenhouse gases per passenger compared to driving, and up to 72% fewer than flying).
- Promoting equity, social justice, and environmental justice by increasing access to the largest job center in the Midwest especially for those living in as environmentally disadvantaged communities.
“Gov. Pritzker clearly understands the importance of Chicago Union Station, and it is really exciting to see his involvement and commitment,” said High Speed Rail Alliance Executive Director Rick Harnish.
“Bringing our cities closer together with fast, frequent, and affordable trains is key to attracting the dynamic businesses and innovative workforce needed to transition to the green economy. And, fixing Union Station is the first step towards building those trains.
“Next, we need Congress to support Governor Pritzker’s leadership. Congress should fully fund the Federal Railroad Administration in the 2024 federal budget. With FRA support, programs like CHIP can get done, and we can build a more prosperous region with increased freedom to travel for all.”