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Illinois to restore Metra line in Rockford

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(The Center Square) – Illinois transportation officials and Rockford city officials on Thursday announced a partnership between the Illinois Department of Transportation and Metra that will open a passenger rail between Chicago and Rockford.

As a part of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois program that increased motor fuel taxes and fees in 2019, the project will reopen the passenger rail in Rockford, which was previously closed in 1981.

Pritzker said this project will help create jobs in this area. The Rockford project is expected to cost around $250 million and looks to reopen by 2027.

“From the hundreds of construction and engineering jobs created by our planned rail improvements to the increased economic growth that comes with heightened connectivity, all the way to the long-lasting reduction in pollution and traffic congestion that will stem from more efficient rail alternatives to driving, the new Rockford Intercity Passenger Rail service will have positive impacts that will strengthen northern Illinois for years to come,” Pritzker said.

Metra CEO Jim Derwinski called the project a significant step for the state and the rail company.

“This is a major step for Metra to journey outside our six-county, Chicago-area home, but it is something we are well-prepared to do,” said Derwinski. “We know how to operate passenger trains. We’ve been doing it for nearly 40 years, through polar vortexes and hot streaks and pandemics and with an on-time performance rate that is the envy of our peers. And we could not be more excited that we will soon be providing service to Rockford.”

The project has received support from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Cherry Valley, said projects like these are easy to support.

“I was proud to support the bipartisan capital plan because we knew how important this was to rebuilding Illinois and rebuilding our infrastructure,” Syverson said. “It shouldn’t be a partisan issue when talking about rebuilding our state.”

The 2019 Rebuild Illinois plan doubled the state’s gas tax and tacked on an annual increase tied to inflation. There were also fee increases for other driving-related permits.

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