Study Shows Northwest Illinois Railroad Expansion Costs Would Exceed Ticket Revenue | Illinois

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(The Center Square) – The price tag for expanding passenger rail service in northwest Illinois could be as high as $380 million.

It is according to a new feasibility study prepared by Quandel Consultants planning to establish service between Rockford and Dubuque, Iowa, with stops at Freeport and Galena. The route would also connect to standby service from Chicago to Rockford, which could begin in 2025.

The report predicts construction costs between $281 million and $380 million to bring the line into operation. Current annual operating and maintenance expenses are estimated at $9.7 million. This compares to expected annual ticket revenue of between $2.8 million and $3.5 million.

“I don’t think voters in northwest Illinois are close to the priority list,” said state Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, who represents the region. “We want to repair our current infrastructure, our roads and bridges, and our sidewalks.”

The study operates under the assumption of two daily return trains between Rockford and Dubuque, with an estimated ridership of approximately 75 people each way.

“I don’t think that’s a demand, or at least a strong demand,” Chesney said. “I think cost sharing would be a big concern as well as implementation. Dubuque, of course, wants it, but they don’t want to foot most of the bill.

The study says the line would require the replacement of 88 miles of mainline railway and 40% of the existing sleepers on the mainline, among other necessary improvements such as the construction of stations and support facilities to support the route. .

“We celebrate in Illinois when we get an improvement in our credit rating that still ranks 50 out of 50,” Chesney said. “Our biggest issue we have in Northwest Illinois is funding our current infrastructure and our current responsibilities.”

It is estimated that approximately 600 jobs would be required for between two and three years of construction along the route, with a total of 34 long-term jobs created by the project. Twenty would be in the Rockford/Dubuque area on the line.

“If the best guess is they’re going to lose money, I think most reasonable people would say it should be a no-start,” Chesney said. “Then you couple that with the [lack of] the urge to undertake more projects that are not related to adequately funding our police and running a large EMS [shortage] here in the region.

The authors of the study argue for “increased tourism” and “local economic activity”, but do not provide any specific figures as to the impact on the region.

The report concludes by outlining various funding opportunities, including $66 billion in funds for rail projects that were outlined in last year’s federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It is also recommended that advocates begin further study to help generate a preliminary service development plan for the project.

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