Federal funding needed for $1.1 billion project to modernize regional rail, upgrade Union Station

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

Political, business and industry leaders are joining forces to call attention to the Chicago Hub Improvement Program, a proposed series of $1 billion projects to upgrade regional rail infrastructure and Union Station.

“The Chicago Hub Improvement Program is an opportunity for new federal infrastructure funding to catalyze the rail system this region deserves,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “This proposal would not only make much-needed improvements to Union Station and existing rail lines throughout Illinois and into Michigan — it would unlock a vast system of new and expanded passenger rail services throughout the Midwest, with Chicago’s Union Station serving as the hub.

The city is looking for a $872.8 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Federal/State Partnership Program, made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for regional improvements.

“These kinds of investments allow our residents to more easily access places and opportunities beyond their immediate neighborhoods, and they open doors for new jobs and new businesses. The Chicago Hub Improvement Program, with its scope and scale, will have an enormously positive impact on people’s lives not just in Illinois but across the nation.”

Grant applicants with Amtrak include the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Cook County, Metra, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Michigan Department of Transportation, which are contributing a combined $218.2 million toward the improvements. Grant announcements are anticipated later this year.

The Union Station project includes improving platforms, upgrading the concourse, and reactivating tracks for passenger use that were first built for the Old Post Office, increasing capacity for both Amtrak and Metra. The ventilation system will be upgraded, and the grant will also provide a new connection between Union Station and the St. Charles Air Line bridge over the south branch of the Chicago River near 18th Street.

Improvements also are necessary to support expansions to Minneapolis/St. Paul and several Wisconsin destinations. More than 15 intercity passenger routes will benefit.

“Chicago is one of the most important railroad hubs in the nation and we must continue to strengthen and modernize our transit system,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. “So I join the voices calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the Chicago Hub Improvement Program, which would significantly renovate and improve intercity, commuter, and freight railways to be greener, cleaner, and more efficient.

“I look forward to making this project a reality to fulfill Amtrak’s potential as a world-class transportation provider and further Chicago’s status as a world-class city.”

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