Illinois Town Upset About Being Bypassed

Recently announced plans to launch Amtrak service between Chicago and Rockford, Ill., have upset officials in a town that is being bypassed. In fact, you could say that city officials in Genoa are downright angry about it.

“The whole way this was handled was disgraceful,” Genoa Mayor Mark Vicary said. “We just found out about this [Thursday] night. It’s a travesty, and it was taken away from us in the darkness of the night.”

Genoa officials had expected the train to use Canadian National tracks that pass through their town. Illinois Department of Transportation officials has expected that to be the case, too.

But negotiations with CN to use the former Illinois Central route failed to conclude in an agreement, so IDOT struck a deal with Union Pacific, which agreed to allow the train to use a former Chicago & North Western route via Huntley and Belvidere.

The Chicago-Rockford service, which IDOT hopes to launch in 2015, is expected to eventually be extended to Dubuque, Iowa. That would involve having to use the CN route. Until 1981, the former IC route hosted Amtrak’s Black Hawk between Chicago and Dubuque. That service ended following budget cuts that reduced the money available to IDOT to pay for Amtrak service.

The Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce is sending letters to its members asking them to reach out to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to voice their support for the city stop.

“We had no idea this was something that was going to happen,” says Cortney Strohacker, the chamber’s executive director. “We were looking forward to the economic development opportunities it would bring, and were looking forward to not only having Amtrak available for us, but for others who wanted to come to Genoa.”

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