Legislators urging feds to fund CHIP construction project including improvements at Chicago’s Union Station

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

More than two dozen lawmakers have signed a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, asking the Biden Administration to allocate resources for the Chicago Hub Improvement Project.

That project would expand Amtrak service and includes dozens of improvement projects at Chicago’s Union Station.

“We ask the Department of Transportation to meet this moment in history by investing in the success of CUS, which serves 3.3 million Amtrak riders annually, along 16 Amtrak intercity rail lines, and more than 30 million riders across all rail services,” the group wrote in the letter.

A total of 29 legislators are seeking about $1 billion through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. About $218 million has already been committed for the project by the state of Illinois, Chicago Transit Authority and Metra.

“CHIP is Amtrak’s top National Network priority, as the City of Chicago is the nation’s passenger, commuter, and freight rail hub, with more trackage radiating in more directions than any other city in North America,” the lawmakers began their letter. “Chicago is at the center of Amtrak’s Midwestern expansion plan, a 15-year strategy to connect dozens of cities in roughly 160 communities with Amtrak service.”

Trains that begin or end at CUS make up more than 90 percent of Amtrak’s state-supported service outside of the East and West Coasts, and more than 50 percent of Long-Distance customers.

“We ask the Department of Transportation to meet this moment in history by investing in the success of CUS, which serves 3.3 million Amtrak riders annually, along 16 Amtrak intercity rail lines, and more than 30 million riders across all rail services,” the lawmakers wrote.  “Many long-planned projects to improve and extend rail lines across other Midwest states depend on CHIP’s improvements to the Chicago area, including projects within the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative and the Federal Railroad Administration’s Midwest Regional Rail Plan.”

The letter cites the Biden Administration’s goals to build equitable infrastructure that reduces emissions, and notes that CHIP fulfills this aim and will spur economic growth across the Midwest.

“CHIP will allow Amtrak to upgrade and expand its services to communities and riders who lack frequent and reliable intercity rail transportation.  It will provide code-compliant, accessible platforms in preparation for the anticipated growth of both intercity and commuter ridership,” the letter states.

“The full scope of Amtrak’s application, totaling more than $1 billion, proposes several investments that will address transportation challenges and create a strong foundation for reducing travel time, expanding service, and meeting the current and future needs of customers of both Amtrak and its partners.”

The letter asks for “full consideration of Amtrak’s CHIP application to improve intercity, commuter, and freight travel, as well as strengthen the long-term sustainability and growth of the Midwest and the entire nation.”

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