The Illinois Department of Transportation said today the Chicago to Rockford to Dubuque, Iowa, Amtrak route will not include Belvidere when it begins hauling passengers in 2014.
IDOT said an independent study by the Decatur office of URS Corp., an engineering company, determined a southern route through Genoa in DeKalb County was less expensive, safer and would serve more passengers than one through Boone County.
URS’s analysis showed that a route through Genoa would require $26.2 million to upgrade infrastructure between Chicago and Rockford. Improvements through Belvidere would cost $62.3 million.
The southern route crosses 143 roads and highways, while the northern route crosses 176, the study said. And it estimated that 76,357 passengers annually would ride the southern route versus 54,988 on the northern route.
“My reaction is deep disappointment,” said Steve Ernst, executive director of the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning, who heard the news but hadn’t read the IDOT report. “I can’t believe that going through a rural area like Genoa generates more traffic than going through McHenry and Boone counties, and stopping at O’Hare.”
Ernst said cost calculations by the Northern Illinois Commuter Transportation Initiative had both projects within $700,000 of each other.
Gov. Patrick Quinn said the project will create 650 jobs, linking Chicago’s Union Station with downtown Rockford and Dubuque.
“Illinois is committed to creating jobs and promoting economic development by linking our cities, businesses and universities through passenger rail,” Quinn said. “The selection of the southern route does the best job of accomplishing those goals safely and cost effectively.”
Rockford Register Star political editor Chuck Sweeny broke the story this morning when Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton said the route from Chicago to Dubuque would go through DeKalb County.
Chart Comparing Belvidere (A) and Genoa (C) Amtrak routes
Source: URS Corp.
This story will be updated throughout the day.
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