217.370.8505 cory@bletislb.org

Metra to provide Chicago-to-Rockford rail service

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker last week announced a partnership between the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Metra to restore Chicago-to-Rockford passenger-rail service that was discontinued 42 years ago.

The intercity passenger-rail service will link Rockford, Belvidere and surrounding communities to Chicago. Metra will use its Milwaukee District West Line and relationship with Union Pacific Railroad to extend service beyond Elgin to reach Rockford, with expected stops in Huntley and Belvidere.

“This is a major step for Metra to journey outside our six-county, Chicago-area home, but it is something we are well-prepared to do,” said Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski in a press release.

Trains are expected to begin service in late 2027. The $275 million project to restore the service will be funded through the Rebuild Illinois program.

Project components will include improved grade crossings, upgraded bridges and double-tracking at various locations. Stations will be built in Huntley and Belvidere.

With those improvements, travel time is anticipated to be slightly less than two hours between the two cities, with two round trips per day planned. Boarding locations in Chicago and Rockford, as well as a fare structure and schedule, are still to be determined.

Pending Metra board approval, the project’s next phases include reaching operations and maintenance agreements between IDOT, Metra and UP. Also required are engineering studies 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. To reach Rockford, a connection ultimately will have to be built between Metra and the UP tracks in Elgin.

The new chicagotorockfordrail.org website will provide project status updates.