Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-East Dubuque route’

Group Seeks Study to Restore Service to Dubuque

December 1, 2020

A group based in Dubuque, Iowa, is hoping to return Amtrak service to their city by piggybacking onto a proposed new service between Chicago and Rockford, Illinois.

Amtrak’s Black Hawk ran between Chicago and Dubuque in the late 1970s and early 1980s before being discontinued in 1981 during a State of Illinois budget crunch.

A committee of Dubuque government and economic officials along with officials in three Illinois counties are undertaking the study.

Their hope is to come up with a proposal that would extend the Rockford service to Dubuque.

The group is seeking a consultant to conduct the study, which is expected to take 14 months.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has been working for the past several years on reviving service to Rockford.

IDOT hired a manager for the project earlier this year. The state allocated $275 million in the fiscal year 2020 budget to pay for planning work for the project.

The Iowa-Illinois group’s study would examine such matters as a route, station locations, infrastructure needs, and costs and revenue potential.

Proposals are expected to be received in December and a contract awarded in January.

New Governor Raises Hopes for Reviving Illinois Service

November 20, 2018

Northern Illinois rail passenger advocates are looking to a new governor to help jump start efforts to reinstate intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa, and between Chicago and Rockford, Illinois.

J.B. Pritzker recently ousted incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner whose administration had not been supportive of the proposed services, which were announced in 2014.

Also giving supporters hope is a favorable vote on an advisory referendum to create a station in Rockford for the proposed service.

A Rockford area state lawmaker, though, still sees a struggle to get the service going.

“It’s gonna be expensive – it’s gonna be a major effort, and if there’s not the political will to do it locally, then we should not head down that path,” said State Senator Steve Stadelman.

Stadelman, though, called the election of Pritzker a new opportunity.

He said he plans to meet with local leaders to gauge their support for the rail service.

Stadelman noted that the new governor has talked about the importance of transportation infrastructure. “I hope he’s willing to take a look at the idea,” Stadelman said.

During the Nov. 6 election, voters in Rockford and Boone and Winnebago counties gave 79 percent approval to the referendum question.

During the administration of former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, the estimated cost of the proposed service was put at $230 million.

The service would serve a region that has lacked intercity rail service for several decades.

Until 1978, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific operated a train known as the Quad City Rocket between Chicago and Rock Island, Illinois. That train ran for the final time on Dec. 31.

Amtrak operated the Black Hawk between Chicago and Dubuque, Iowa, between Feb. 17, 1974, and Sept. 30, 1981.

The Black Hawk served Rockford and Freeport and ended during a state budget crunch.

In recent years, the Illinois Department of Transportation has studied reviving Amtrak service to Northwest Illinois using portions of the former Black Hawk and Quad City Rocket routes.

A new station was built in Moline, Illinois, which includes a hotel and shops.

“We’re hoping with the new administration that they’ll put a higher emphasis on passenger rail and keep it moving,” said Ray Forsythe, planning and development director with the City of Moline. We’re pretty excited.”

Funding for the revival of Northwest Illinois intercity rail service was included in the 2009 capital bill, the last one adopted by the Illinois General Assembly.

Lawmakers earmarked $150 million for Amtrak expansion for both the Quad Cities route and service to Dubuque via Rockford, along with money for rail upgrades for the existing line between Chicago and St. Louis.

Initially, the state planned to launch service to Rockford and extend it later to Dubuque.

Service to the Quad Cities was to use a BNSF route already used by other Amtrak trains to Wyanet, Illinois, and then switch to the Iowa Interstate, which owns the former CRI&P tracks.

The Federal Railroad Administration awarded $177.3 million in 2011 to IDOT to complete planning, environmental review, design and construction of the Quad Cities line, with the goal of having two round trips daily.

But Rauner’s inauguration in 2015 resulted in the Northwest Illinois rail service projects being put on hold.

In late 2016, IDOT resumed talks with the Iowa Interstate about using its tracks.

The two parties are discussing track upgrades, including installation of positive train control.

Also on the docket is the connection between the BNSF and Iowa Interstate lines.

However, negotiations with Union Pacific to use its tracks for the Rockford service have not resumed.

IDOT officials have not given a timeline as to when the services might be launched.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the carrier is interested in operating the Rockford and the Quad Cities routes because studies have found both have high potential for passengers.

Officials say that key to getting the routes started will be passage of another capital bill in the legislature.

A spokeswoman for Pritzker said he is committed to “working across the aisle” to get that done so that it can be used to attract federal grant money.

However, rail advocate will be competing for funding with such other infrastructure needs as roads, water systems and transit agencies.

Gloomy Morning in Dubuque

September 9, 2016

black-hawk-x

It was a cloudy, foggy and all-around gloomy morning in Dubuque, Iowa, when I arrived at the former Illinois Central station to board the Chicago-bound Black Hawk.

I had driven through the night from my home in downstate Illinois to reach Dubuque to get the mileage on a route I’d never ridden before. I didn’t have much time to do that for Nos. 371 and 371 were to be discontinued at the end of September 1981. That was about two weeks away when I rode the Black Hawk.

It was a Saturday morning and my hazy recollection is that I arrived well before departure time. When it got light enough I made this photograph, which is the only image that I have of the Black Hawk.

The station still has Illinois Central prominently carved in stone on the side, which is a reminder of a time when trains with such names as Hawkeye and Land ‘O Corn used to call here.

The Black Hawk had a short, but colorful life. It started with Rail Diesel equipment that was trouble-prone. Then it received an array of equipment including a consist that had bullet nose observation cars on each end of the train.

It must have been fun to photograph the Black Hawk back in those days. Eventually, Amtrak received enough Amfleet equipment to assign to the route and the electric equipment assignments ended.

On this day No. 372 has the standard Midwest corridor consist of the time of an F40PH locomotive and a pair of Amfleet cars, one of them a food service car.

The return trip to Dubque that night, though, had a P30CH locomotive on the point. I had booked a motel room for Saturday night in Dubuque so I could return home on Sunday in daylight.

I don’t remember a whole lot about the trip or what I did in Chicago during my layover. I am grateful now, though, that I made at least one photo of the Black Hawk.

Local Officials in Dark About New Amtrak Route

December 16, 2013

Elected officials in Northern Illinois say that have not heard anything officials about the plans to launch Amtrak service between Chicago and East Dubuque, Ill.

Recent news media reports indicated that the Illinois Department of Transportation, Amtrak and the Canadian National Railway had made progress in negotiations for use of a former Illinois Central route that runs via Rockford, Freeport and Galena.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn had pledged that the train would begin operations in 2014. Yet the Rockford Register Star received interviewed several local officials and none of them said that they had received word about when the train would begin.

“I haven’t heard anything,” said Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz who added that he’s worried that funding for the train could get caught up in budgetary debates in Washington, D.C.

“It would be a shame if the expansion of rail service into northern and northwest Illinois were to become the victim of budgetary forces or the forthcoming elections.”

Gitz supports the new Amtrak route and fears that if the service doesn’t begin by 2016 it may never happen.

Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, called the negotiations with CN agonizingly slow. “The governor says he’s disappointed that the cost has skyrocketed,”
Stadelman said. “Conversations are taking place now, revisiting the issue, determining the future of Amtrak service. “This service is still going to happen, it’s just taking longer than it should.”

IDOT has estimated infrastructure costs at $60 million for the route through Genoa.

The city of Rockford is moving ahead on a plan to construct a $12 million train and bus station at South Main Street and Kent Creek.

“The city and Rockford Mass Transit District will be announcing their architectural team that will help design the downtown station soon, hopefully right after Thanksgiving,” said Steve Ernst, executive director of the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

“It has just been a difficult and lengthy process. … Getting signed contracts out of Springfield has seemed to take an eternity.”

Ernst hasn’t heard anything new on the proposed Amtrak route since the summer.

“As far as I know the state and the CN still have not reached agreement. But seeing as they both signed a nondisclosure agreement for the negotiating period, IDOT has not been able to divulge how close (or how far apart) they are. But given the length of time, I have to believe that they still are far apart.”

Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, has asked IDOT for a report on the status of the proposed Amtrak but still hasn’t received it.

“At this point, I’ve been told that IDOT is close to an agreement (with CN) where a contract can be worked out,” he said. “Now, what ‘close to’ means, we don’t have a definition yet.”