If plans are implemented as proposed Genoa will become a stop on an Amtrak passenger train route between Chicago and Dubuque, Iowa. Amtrak expects to start running passenger service in 2014, once track improvements are complete. Trains will run at least one round-trip daily between Union Station (Chicago) and Dubuque.
The effort to land an Amtrak stop rewarded the tireless pursuits of Genoa city administrator, Joe Misurelli; Genoa chamber director, Bonnie Hanson; and Mayor Todd Walker. Their efforts were joined by community leaders throughout the county including support from the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC); the chamber of commerce associations in DeKalb, Sycamore and Genoa; the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Northern Illinois University.
From the Illinois Department of Transportation:
Southern Route Chosen for Cost, Ridership, Safety, Performance
CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Transportation today announced the selection of the proposed southern route for Amtrak’s new Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque service from Chicago’s Union Station to downtown Rockford. The $60 million service will create 650 construction jobs, with trains running by early 2014.
“Illinois is committed to creating jobs and promoting economic development by linking our cities, businesses and universities through passenger rail,” said Governor Pat Quinn. “The selection of the southern route does the best job of accomplishing those goals safely and cost effectively.”
The selection of routes was based on an independent study by the Decatur office of URS Corp., one of the country’s top engineering design firms. The analysis showed that the southern route through Genoa will require a $26.2 million investment in upgraded infrastructure between Chicago and Rockford. Similar improvements on the proposed northern route through Belvidere would cost $62.3 million, raising the total cost of the route to more than $96 million. The study also determined an estimated annual ridership of 76,357 on the southern route compared to 54,988 on the northern route.
Safety was another deciding factor in the study. The southern route will cross 143 roads and highways. The northern route would cross 176. The southern route also will see fewer delays using only two railroads, while the northern route would require using four railroads. The full report can be viewed at [link].
“The southern route offers the best deal for travelers and taxpayers,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig said. “After much deliberation, we are excited to start service to an underserved part of the state.”
The Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque line marks the return of passenger rail to the Rockford area for the first time since 1981. Trains will run at least one round-trip daily between Chicago’s Union Station and Dubuque, with stops in Elgin, Genoa, Rockford and Galena.
If final the decision to use the rail route running through Genoa as opposed to running it along a northern route through Belvidere could prove fruitful for local tourism and economic development efforts. The decision appears final according to statements from Gov. Pat Quinn and IDOT spokesman Josh Kauffman.
Gov. Quinn said the project will create 650 jobs, linking Union Station in Chicago with downtown Rockford and Dubuque.
“Illinois is committed to creating jobs and promoting economic development by linking our cities, businesses and universities through passenger rail,” Quinn said. “The selection of the southern route does the best job of accomplishing those goals safely and cost-effectively.”
But a similar announcement made before the elections also appeared final. Last spring, Gov. Quinn, announced that the train would come through Belvidere. The governor did appear to waver on that in the summer as IDOT and Amtrak favored the southern route through Genoa.
A great deal of lobbying from supporters of Belvidere, which included the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Northern Illinois Commuter Transportation Initiative, Growth Dimensions (Boone County) and civic and chamber members of Rockford, Belvidere, Marengo and Huntley was put into the route selection process in an effort to get the northern route chosen. They thought they were successful. According to a release from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP), Belvidere was recently awarded $295,580 for its Amtrak Station Enhancement Program.
Because the election is in the rear view mirror and perhaps aided by Illinois receiving Wisconsin’s share of federal passenger rail funds it is likely that the $63 million project includes Genoa and not Belvidere.
An independent study by the Decatur office of URS Corp., an engineering company, confirmed an earlier Amtrak feasibility study, that the a southern route through Genoa was less expensive and safer and would serve more passengers than one through Boone County.
The URS analysis showed that the Genoa route would require $26.2 million to upgrade infrastructure between Chicago and Rockford compared to a $62.3 million price tag for improvements for the route through Belvidere. An estimated 76,357 passengers annually would ride the Genoa route compared with 54,988 on the Belvidere route. The Genoa route was also safer, according to the URS analysis. The selected route through Genoa crosses 143 roads and highways, while the Belvidere route crosses 176, the report said.
Amtrak expects to be offering passenger service on that at least once daily route by 2014. Genoa will need to build a passenger depot before the route becomes operational. ITEP and TIF are two common sources for construction funding.
Don Manzullo pointed out at a public meeting in McHenry County there is no passenger rail service that does not require subsidy. But the federal program to increase passenger rail service was rolling down the track. The return on subsidy should equate to a boost in local tourism and increased economic development. The train will now will stop in Genoa as it connects Dubuque, Galena, Rockford, Elgin and Chicago via Amtrak.
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