Metra's on board with train service to Rockford

Metra directors Wednesday agreed to collaborate with the Illinois Department of Transportation to provide train service to Rockford with provisos the railroad won't pay for implementation.

Now it's up to top executives at Metra and IDOT to work out the details.

The unique opportunity means Metra will start operating two Chicago-Rockford round trips by the end of 2027, officials anticipate.

Metra will use its Milwaukee District West Line that travels from Chicago to Elgin for the service and partner with Union Pacific Railway, which has tracks that extend to Rockford. Suburban stops will include Elgin and Huntley.

The journey from Chicago to Rockford should take less than two hours, but that won't happen until major improvements occur. "What we can control we will definitely expedite, and what we can't control, we will definitely push people to make the improvements," Metra Executive Director Jim Derwinski said at a board meeting.

Amtrak discontinued service between the two cities in 1981.

"The track that the train operated on to get there is currently at only 40 mph, and that's obviously one of the biggest considerations to get that up to 80 mph track," Derwinski said.

A total of $275 million in state capital funds is earmarked for infrastructure that includes upgrading stations, signals, bridges and track. For example, a connection is needed between Metra and UP's tracks.

Details of station locations, fares and schedules are being worked out.

A resolution approved Wednesday stipulates that all upgrades "are at no cost" to Metra.

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