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Chicago, Illinois/Central Kane Corridor

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Central Kane Corridor

Chicago, Illinois

(November 1998)


Metra, the commuter rail division of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) of northeastern Illinois, is proposing an 8-mile extension to the existing 36-mile Union Pacific West (UPW) Line (also known as the Central Kane Corridor). Metra’s UPW commuter rail line currently provides service between downtown Chicago west to Geneva. The proposed project would extend trackage further west to Elburn, Illinois. The proposed action also includes multiple track and signal improvements, construction of two additional stations and parking facilities, construction of a new train storage yard, and the purchase of one diesel locomotive and eight bi-level passenger cars. The proposed extension will utilize an existing railroad track and right-of-way currently used by both Metra and the Union Pacific freight railroad. The total estimated capital cost for the UPW Line extension and improvements is $100.74 million (escalated dollars). Metra estimates that 3,900 daily new riders will use the line in the year 2020.

Proposed Project Commuter Rail Line (extension and multiple improvements)
8 miles, 2 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $100.74 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $59.44 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $0.12 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 3,900 daily new riders
FY 2000 Finance Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


In April 1997, Metra initiated a Major Investment Study (MIS) for the Central Kane Corridor. The purpose of the MIS was to analyze the ability and cost effectiveness of various alternative investment strategies to serve the growing need for travel from the Central Kane Corridor to the Chicago CBD job market. Based on the results of the MIS, Metra selected Rail Alternative R1 as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). This project would provide for the extension of commuter rail service from Geneva to Elburn, Illinois on the UPW Line.

The LPA was included in the Chicago Area Transportation Study’s (local Metropolitan Planning Organization) 2020 Long Range Plan and Transportation Improvement Program in November 1997.

FTA approved (in December 1998) the Central Kane Corridor to initiate preliminary engineering and the environmental review process of project development. Section 3030(a)(13) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorizes the "West Line Extension" for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $2.98 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for the project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. For reporting purposes, Metra provided criteria for an "Existing Airport Improvements (EAI)" socio-demographic scenario. Data from the EAI socio-demographic were used to evaluate the proposed new start project against both the No-build and TSM alternatives. N/A indicates that information for a specific criterion was not available.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium-High

Metra estimates the following annual travel time savings for the Central Kane Corridor:

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.3 million hours 0.7 million hours

Based on 1990 census data, there is one (1) estimated low-income household within a ½ mile radius of the two proposed stations. This represents 2 percent of the total number of households within ½ mile of the proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Northeastern Illinois is classified as being in "severe" nonattainment for ozone. The region is in attainment for carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM10). Metra estimates that in the year 2020, the proposed project would result in the following emissions reductions:

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) reduction of 215 annual tons reduction of 154 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) reduction of 36 annual tons reduction of 26 annual tons
Hydrocarbons (HC) reduction of 3 annual tons reduction of 5 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reduction of 14,390 annual tons reduction of 10,624 annual tons

Metra estimates that the proposed project will result in the following decreases in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTUs):

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (million) reduction of 188,315 million BTU reduction of 138,867 million BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

Metra estimates a decrease in the systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2020 for the New Start compared to both the No-Build and TSM alternatives.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2020) $0.23 $0.23 $0.22

Note: Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

Metra estimates the following cost effectiveness indices, comparing the proposed project to the No-Build and TSM alternative:

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $9.45 $12.13

Note: Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium land use rating reflects both the low densities and the relatively few transit-supportive land use policies that currently exist within the proposed corridor, outside of the Chicago Central Business District (CBD). This corridor is similar to other outlying areas of the Chicago metropolitan region, with significant auto-oriented development. The Union Pacific-West Line (Central Kane Corridor) links downtown Chicago in Cook County with the western suburbs of DuPage and Kane Counties, a distance of approximately 10 miles west of the Chicago CBD. There is a mix of developed land uses, including residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and open space along the proposed corridor. The existing downtown stations are fully built out at high densities, while the remaining impacted station areas are partially developed at low densities. In general, development in the corridor is primarily industrial and commercial around stations near the CBD and more residential in station areas west of Chicago. Residential development around the proposed stations is predominantly low-density single family housing.

The Kane County 2020 Land Resource Management Plan has various policies that not only support the extension of commuter rail, but also encourage the development of pedestrian and transit-friendly communities in the area. The Kane County 2020 Transportation Plan, developed in coordination with the county’s land use plan, also supports the extension of the commuter rail line and encourages Transit-Oriented-Development (TOD) in the corridor.

In the Chicago CBD, which is a primary destination for the Union Pacific-West Line, the City maintains a ban on new parking structures in the area inside "the Loop." Outside the CBD, however, it is unclear what types of policies are in place to restrict parking supply in order to encourage transit use. At the regional level, the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission supports further study of the concept of Diversified Regional Centers (mixed use developments). This approach involves the clustering of employment and households into dense areas that are often more than 160 acres in size. While a number of regional and county-level documents consider or encourage transit-oriented development, they do not contain implementation strategies.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 41%

Metra proposes that $59.44 million (59 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds and $41.30 million (41 percent) in State funds be applied to the Central Kane Corridor (Union Pacific-West Line) project.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium capital plan rating reflects that Metra is reasonably financially capable to provide the non-Section 5309 share of project costs. The current financial capacity of Metra is strong. However, a proposed financial plan was not submitted to FTA for review. A financial plan outlining the combination of federal, state, and local sources will be performed during the next phase of project development. Metra, through its relationship with the RTA, has a successful history of advancing capital projects that have required significant resources beyond the federal formula funding and rail modernization program.

Metra relies on its own resources from sales tax receipts and farebox revenue to provide significant funding for its capital program. Farebox revenue dedicated to capital expenditures is considered an innovative financing tool, which generated $8 million in 1997. Metra will have to commit this revenue source over four to five years to provide the local share for the project. Capital additions are generally funded by a combination of federal, state and local grants and from Metra’s retained earnings. Metra had cash and cash equivalents of $56 million as of December 31, 1997. Metra also receives annual allocations of dedicated sales tax revenues from the RTA. The State of Illinois General Assembly typically provides approximately $40 million each year to fund public transportation capital projects in northeast Illinois. Metra’s share of this funding is approximately $14 million. In addition, Metra has established a policy that the local communities receiving service must provide funding for stations and parking facilities. Communities may utilize flexible funding such as CMAQ and STP funds for their share. Metra estimates that communities that directly benefit from the proposed project will contribute $3.9 million.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: High

The High operating plan rating reflects the strong financial structure of Metra’s current operations and the availability of its existing resources to assist with potential operational funding deficits. A financial plan focusing on each proposed new start project and outlining the funding and operating mechanisms will be prepared during the next phase of project development. As provided under the Regional Transportation Authority Act, Metra was established in 1980 to serve as RTA’s operating rail corporation. Metra receives revenues directly from the operation of Rock Island, Milwaukee Road, Metra Electric, Heritage Corridor, North Central Service, and the Metra Southwest Service lines, and financial operating assistance from the RTA. Metra is proposing operating budgets through the year 2001 that will attain a 55 percent revenue recovery ratio. The service extension to Elburn, will require an operating subsidy of $1.3 million (1997 dollars). This represents an increase of 0.7 percent in operating assistance requirements. Metra’s share of RTA’s sales tax revenues is projected to increase by approximately 4 percent during this period.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $48.54 $2.98 million appropriated through FY 1999
State/Local: $33.63 N/A
Total: $82.17

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Central Kane Corridor Map (PDF)]

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact