August 03, 2023

Democratic leaders seek $837 million in federal funding to revamp Chicago’s Union Station

If approved, efforts to modernize Union Station would cut travel times, increase capacity, improve platforms, and connect O’Hare Airport to McCormick Place, officials said.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times


Illinois leaders on Thursday applied for nearly $900 million in federal funding for a plan that would speed up rail service to and from Union Station and even create a direct connection between O’Hare Airport and McCormick Place.

“If it rolls, floats or flies, it comes through Chicago,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley at a press conference in the West Loop. “Union Station, this is the ballgame. But the track and the bridge system around it in the Chicagoland area is at least 100 years old — and it shows it, it can’t meet the modern age. We have to get this done.”

With about $218 million set to come from local governments and private investors to launch the start of the Chicago Hub Improvement Program (CHIP), a project aimed at making it easier for trains from southern routes to reach Union Station, $873 million in federal assistance is still needed in order for the plan to leave the station.

Initially met with pushback from House Republicans concerned about overspending, Quigley, along with U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Brandon Johnson expressed confidence at a press conference on Thursday in the Chicago Hub Improvement Program’s eventual rollout — and according to Pritzker, “no one” will stand in the way of the project.

There is no opposition, he said.

Durbin echoed Pritzker and said “now’s the time” to secure the funding as President Joe Biden faces re-election next year, pointing out CHIP wasn’t included in the infrastructure bill passed in 2021, so legislators have been trying to make the case for allocating the $873 million to Chicago.

If approved, efforts to modernize Union Station and the surrounding tracks would cut travel times, increase capacity, improve platforms, remove a bottleneck between Chicago and Detroit and make possible a one-seat ride from O’Hare Airport to McCormick Place, officials said.

That means fewer delays and safer service for the more than 30 million riders across all rail services who pass through Union Station annually, Duckworth added.

The timeline surrounding the project remains unclear, officials said, but the U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to reach a decision about funding by the end of the year.

“While the Midwest has soared in ridership in Amtrak’s portfolio, that surge hasn’t been met with capacity investments to match,” Pritzker said. “There’s no better place than to invest right here in Chicago.”

By:  Allison Novelo