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Mayors CHIP in to win Chicago Hub Improvement Program upgrades to Union Station

5:47 PM CST on November 14, 2022

Chicago’s Union Station. Photo: John Greenfield

56 Chicagoland mayors, including Lori Lightfoot, recently joined forces to send a letter to U.S. transportation chief Pete Buttigieg and Federal Railroad Administration administrator Amit Bose endorsing Amtrak’s proposed $850 million Chicago Hub Improvement Program. The document highlighted the need for infrastructure improvements to Chicago's historic Union Station. If the funding is approved, Amtrak would use the cash from a federal Mega Grant to upgrade the terminal, create more rail routes into the city, and launch a variety of new services.  

"I am proud to join dozens of regional mayors in support of this transformative project for transportation in the Midwest," Lightfoot said in a statement. "This investment in improved train services will give Chicago residents and visitors convenient, safe, and modernized travel options while reducing our carbon footprint. It will also lay the foundation for a more equitable transportation network, giving Illinois residents from all walks of life access to the amenities and opportunities found in our great city and region." 

CHIP would create a new option for Amtrak and Metra trains to access Union Station from the south. According to its supporters, benefits would include more reliable regional and intercity rail service, plus capacity for new routes and increased frequencies. They add that CHIP would provide faster connections between Chicagoland's largest job hubs and improve the station's passenger flow and ventilation. In addition, supporters say, CHIP would lay foundations for future upgrades, such as direct access to intercity trains at O’Hare and McCormick Place. 

“It’s no surprise that mayors from so many other cities support investment in better rail infrastructure in Chicago, because our city serves as the hub for most of North America,” stated Rick Harnish, executive director of the Chicago-based High Speed Rail Alliance. “Our region has wonderful colleges, thriving towns and cities, innovative businesses, and great people. The missing link is a network of fast, safe, and affordable trains connecting them. CHIP would provide a first, foundational step toward implementing this vision.” 

The new southern access to Union Station. Image: High Speed Rail Alliance
The new southern access to Union Station. Image: High Speed Rail Alliance

Mayors from many other Illinois cities signed the letter, as did mayors in neighboring states like Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, plus Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, and Ohio. 

The letter builds on expressions of support for the project at a July press conference at Chicago Union Station that included Mayor Lightfoot; Senator Dick Durbin; Senator Tammy Duckworth; Rep. Chuy Garcia; Illinois Department of Transportation secretary Omer Osman; Metra CEO Jim Lewinski; Jennifer Killen, head of Cook County’s Department of Transportation and Highways; and Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner. 

The feds are expected to make a decision on the CHIP application by New Year's. For more info about CHIP (formerly known as Chicago Access), see the resources  provided by  Joe Schacter, Amtrak Senior Manager for State Corridors.

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