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Chicago-Rockford rail could become a reality in President Biden’s infrastructure plan

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -- After years of promises, a new rail line from Rockford to Chicago could be one step closer to reality, if the infrastructure plan proposed by President Joe Biden passes.

In the president's plan is $80 billion for Amtrak, which would allow Amtrak to build up to 30 new routes by 2035.

One of those routes is the long-awaited rail route from Chicago to Rockford.

However, Amtrak has not been chosen as the operator of the rail line from Chicago to Rockford, according to State Senator Steve Stadelman. The Illinois Department of Transportation is still studying who would be the best fit, likely Metra or Amtrak, according to Stadelman. Though, a decision will be made in the next several months.

If Amtrak is chosen, this money could be used, and is already proposed by Amtrak as an operator.

The Biden Administration says projects are just waiting for funding that will give millions more Americans reliable train services. Rockford's project was already taking strides toward reality. It already had $275 million earmarked for it in the 2019 budget, a project manager was hired in September 2020.

Also in September, Illinois DOT started discussions with key stakeholders, including host railroads Metra and Union Pacific, to determine the improvements needed to bring a passenger line to Rockford.

“Passenger rail service to and from Chicago holds tremendous potential for economic growth and enhanced quality of life in the Rockford area," State Senator Steve Stadelman said in Steptember, when the project manager was selected. "People across northern Illinois are excited about the prospect of a rail link with Chicago, and I think it’s important to keep everyone fully informed and to include as much public input as possible."

"Amtrak has a bold vision to bring energy-efficient, world-class intercity rail service to up to 160 new communities across the nation, as we also invest in our fleet and stations across the U.S," Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said in a statement released Wednesday. "With this federal investment, Amtrak will create jobs and improve equity across cities, regions, and the entire country – and we are ready to deliver. "

James Stratton

James Stratton is the Evening Anchor at 13 WREX and reports for 13 Investigates He joined the team in August, 2018 after working at KWQC TV-6 in Davenport Iowa. His work in Illinois and Iowa has been awarded in both states, along with Edward R. Murrow and Emmy Awards at 13 WREX.

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