Budget puts commuter rail study back on track
With the state budget passed, the efforts to bring commuter rail or bus from Chicagoland to Rockford are back on track.
Northern Illinois Commuter Transportation Initiative leaders hope to still select a route for the commuter service by the end of October. They got $275,000 in state matching funds approved in last week’s budget, and will be able to spend $1 million in federal money to keep the study going.
They’re choosing between two Metra-style rail options and two "rapid bus options."
Before the budget passed, they were worried they’d have to send the consultants home for a month or more, delaying the results.
"We feel very fortunate. It was to the point where we were having to consider what our options were going to be," said Steve Ernst, assistant project manager. "We’re happy with where the project is now."
The commuter rail options both connect to Metra in Elgin — one would go through Huntley, Belvidere and downtown Rockford; the other would go through Genoa and Davis Junction to Chicago/Rockford International Airport.
The bus routes would come from the Elgin or Schaumburg areas along the Northwest Tollway to downtown Rockford.
At public meetings earlier this year, most support was for the rail options.
Planners will be studying ridership projections for the four routes and looking at other criteria in the next two months.
NICTI is funded by $2.4 million in federal money and $600,000 from the state over the course of several years. Once a route is chosen, the actual project would be funded by federal money. Construction wouldn’t start for at least a few years.
Staff writer Thomas V. Bona may be contacted at 815-987-1343 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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