It's been 30 years since our local freight tracks have had passenger rail service, but that will soon change. Gov. Quinn announced today that the state is putting $60 million dollars toward the project to bring passenger rail service from Chicago to Rockford and beyond to Dubuque, Iowa.
"We are focused every day on jobs, economic activity," Gov. Quinn said.
The new Amtrak service could open 650 construction jobs to the state. The hiring process will come through contractors who win the construction bids. Once the service is up and running, 2,000 more jobs will be created. This service is expected to put Rockford on the map and get us better connected with Chicago.
"It's another very very important way to make those longterm psychological connections with the Chicago marketplace. I think it's gonna help us attract more employers here as well as employees - the talent that we need to run our companies," Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said.
Construction is slated to begin over the next year, but before that happens, lawmakers have to decide which of two routes to make the improvements on to host the 70 mph trains. Lawmakers want local leaders and business owners to weigh-in on which route they think will have the best impact on Rockford.
"We will try and reach a local consensus quickly and we can even design and begin construction work closely thereafter," Ill. Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig said.
The $60 million dollars to pay for this project will come from the capital improvement program. Governor Quinn says bonds have been scheduled to be sold to pay back the funds borrowed.
"Illinois is still getting a good rate on our bond issuances and we have the money to pay for the bonds to pay them back," Gov. Quinn said.
This rail service is different from the high speed project that did get the $1.2 billion in federal stimulus dollars two days ago. That Amtrak train goes from Chicago to St. Louis.