Huntley Wants to be Stop on Rockford Route

Officials in Huntley, Illinois, are pushing to be made a station stop for a proposed Amtrak route between Chicago and Rockford, Illinois.

They spoke at a Jan. 15 meeting in Rockford sponsored by the Rail Alliance Initiative for Northern Illinois that was attended by two Amtrak officials.

One of the potential routes that would be used for the service involves Union Pacific-owned tracks that pass through Huntley.

The other route passes to the south on tracks owned by Canadian National that were used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Dubuque, Iowa, Black Hawk, when it operated between 1974 and 1981.

That train stopped in Rockford.

Derrick James, senior manager of governmental affairs in Amtrak’s Chicago office, said Amtrak hopes to be able to make the trip between Chicago and Rockford in less than 90 minutes.

“One of the challenges I’ve had working with legislators is distinguishing between commuter rail and intercity passenger rail,” James said. “Amtrak’s charter is to run intercity trains . . . and our experience is that passenger service works between towns of good size. The train needs to get you as quickly as possible from Rockford to Chicago.”

There have been proposals in past years to link Huntley with Chicago by commuter rail agency Metra.

But Metra has been reluctant to build a connection at its Big Timber station in Elgin to the UP line that passes through Huntley.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has projected that it would cost $233 million to extend service beyond Elgin to Marengo, Huntley, Belvidere and Rockford by rebuilding the Union Pacific tracks and connecting them with the Metra Milwaukee West tracks at Big Timber Road.

James said having one stop between Chicago and Rockford would make the most sense for Amtrak and if that is the case it would likely be in Belvidere.

The push to revive Amtrak service to Rockford has been several years in the making.

In 2007 Amtrak conducted a feasibility that estimated the cost of reinstating the Black Hawk at $32 million to $55 million.

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