Rauner's action could delay Huntley train station project

Construction of Huntley's downtown train station for Amtrak service could be delayed with Gov. Bruce Rauner's executive order freezing all major state construction projects pending further review.

The $223 million plan to resume Amtrak passenger rail service from Chicago to Rockford was expected to be operating from Huntley's downtown by December.

The project marks the return of passenger rail to Rockford for the first time since 1981, using tracks owned by Metra and the Union Pacific Railroad. Work on the train station was expected to begin in late spring.

Huntley is obligated to provide a platform for riders by the end of 2015, under the terms of a $3.55 million intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation, Village Manager Dave Johnson said.

“Obviously, we are eager to hear one way or the other whether the Amtrak project is going to move forward,” Johnson said. “It's an important project for the region and Huntley.”

The village's portion of the project cost — $625,000 — would cover engineering and architectural services.

Huntley plans on spending roughly $2.9 million toward construction of the station, including the platform, station building and parking lot improvements, to be later reimbursed by the state. The village already has spent $50,000 on engineering plans.

IDOT also has spent $3 million on preliminary engineering for the project, but no additional funds have been allocated, spokesman Guy Tridgell said.

“The project is under review at this time,” said Tridgell, adding he could not say how long the state's review would take.

A Rauner spokesman could not be reached for comment Monday.

Huntley leaders have been working to get passenger rail service in town for decades, with the hope that it would someday lead to the village getting Metra service.

The proposed route would use Metra's Milwaukee District-West Line and connect to the Union Pacific Railroad near Big Timber Road in Elgin. Stops are planned in Elgin, Huntley and Belvidere.

The train station also is a major part of Huntley's ongoing revitalization of its historic downtown, which began last year.

The village will spend nearly $4 million in its downtown to upgrade older infrastructure, including relocating overhead and underground utilities, renovating stormwater and sewer lines, and improving landscaping and sidewalks near the downtown square. The village is borrowing the $4 million needed for revitalization work.

“We've got a lot of work to do before we get to the passenger rail site and the parking,” Johnson said. “We're not going to put the brakes on our downtown projects while we are waiting to hear (from the state).”

The revitalization will happen in five phases, starting with utility relocation and water/sewer upgrades north of the train station site, which should be completed by May.

Parking would be reconfigured along Main Street and within the municipal parking lot, creating additional spaces throughout downtown to accommodate a 5,400-square-foot mixed-use commercial building under construction.

The revitalization plan calls for widening sidewalks along Main Street, reconstructing streets and adding signage, and adding carriage walks with raised planters, benches, bike racks, trash receptacles and trees along the parkway.

“It's an exciting time in Huntley,” Johnson said. “To revitalize our downtown is a priority.”

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