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Chicago, Illinois/Central Kane Corridor Commuter Rail

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Central Kane Corridor

Chicago, Illinois

(November 1999)

(Central Kane Corridor Map)


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 $93.04 million (escalated dollars). Metra estimates that 3,900 average weekday boardings on the entire UPW line in the year 2020.

Proposed Project Commuter Rail Line (extension and multiple improvements)
8 miles, 2 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $93.00 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $54.30 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $3.90 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 3,900 average weekday boardings
2,700 daily new riders
FY 2001 Finance Rating: Medium-High
FY 2001 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2001 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating of Recommended is based on the project’s strong mobility improvements and environmental benefits and the strength of the project’s capital and operating financing plans. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. 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. The MIS was completed in August 1998. 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 financially constrained Long Range Transportation Plan and Transportation Improvement Program in November 1997.

In December 1998, FTA approved Metra’s request to initiate preliminary engineering (PE) and the environmental review process of project development on the Central Kane Corridor. The PE/environmental review process is scheduled for completion in Summer 2000.

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 2000, Congress has appropriated $11.32 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.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.


The Medium project rating reflects strong mobility improvements and environmental benefits of the proposed project while noting relatively low ratings for cost-effectiveness and transit-supportive land use.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium-High

Metra estimates 3,900 average weekday boardings and 2,700 daily new riders on the Central Kane Corridor commuter rail line in the year 2020. Metra estimates the following annual travel time savings for the project:

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.3 million hours 0.8 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, representing 2 percent of the total number of households within a ½ mile of the proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: High

Northeastern Illinois is classified as being in "severe" nonattainment for ozone and 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 increase of 5 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) No Change No Change
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 the following systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2020 for the New Start, 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: Low-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 $13.70 $16.80

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 the marginally transit-supportive and low-density development that currently exists in the Central Kane Corridor, but acknowledges the proactive efforts being undertaken by Metra, the Regional Transportation Authority, and Kane County municipalities in coordinating station area development.

Existing Conditions: The existing Union Pacific-West Line (Central Kane Corridor) connects rapidly developing communities west of Chicago with a major employment center in Chicago’s central business district (CBD). Development in the existing station areas along the line varies from rural towns to high-density residential and commercial uses. Downtown Chicago, which is a major destination for riders, contains high density, pedestrian and transit-friendly development. Land use in proposed station areas on the western end of the corridor is relatively low in density, or agricultural/rural in character. Major trip generators along the western part of the corridor include the Kane County Government Center, Judicial Center, Delnor Hospital, Charlestown Mall, Dupage County Airport (third busiest airport in Illinois), Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia and Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove. Low or medium-density single family housing characterizes the majority of development in Kane County, although a significant amount of undeveloped land exists within the proposed and existing station areas.

Future Plans and Policies: At the regional, corridor and municipal level, population and job growth trends suggest continued rapid development throughout the study area. The outer suburbs in Kane County are expected to grow the most rapidly. The Elburn Land Use Plan seeks to avoid isolated pockets of development, while promoting the preservation of open space by accommodating compact development and higher densities, encouraging infill development within walking distance of the Elburn CBD, and limiting strip-commercial development. Within the plan, land has been set aside for a potential station. As part of Geneva’s Future Land Use and Development Policies, the municipality will encourage residential development and redevelopment that will provide diversity in housing types, including higher densities in the downtown area. The RTA has been very active in developing and sharing information about transit-oriented development through production of studies, workshops and reports, and has a grant program for supporting TOD initiatives. Growth management policies are discussed in several regional and county-level planning documents. However, these documents provide general non-binding recommendations for managing growth. Elburn has taken a proactive approach to parking policies within its CBD. The existing zoning ordinance allows joint or shared parking. Developments that can show that a parking facility is located within close proximity will be allowed a reduction in the required number of spaces. In addition to existing transit parking facilities, Geneva also has a remote parking lot that is connected to the station via a shuttle bus. The remote lot has a shared-parking agreement with a local church located approximately one mile from the station. Parking is free and the shuttle service is $0.50 per trip.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 42%

The financial strategy for the proposed Central Kane Corridor commuter rail extension project includes $54.3 million (58 percent of total project costs) in Section 5309 New Starts funds and $38.7 million (42 percent) in State and local funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating reflects the sound financial condition of Metra and the agency’s positive dedicated revenue sources, and that most of the proposed non-Section 5309 New Starts share of project costs is committed.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: Metra is in sound financial condition. Metra has two revenue sources that are available for funding capital projects: a five percent fare increase, introduced in 1989 and dedicated to capital improvements; and the agency’s portion of the RTA sales tax revenues that exceed Metra’s operating expenses. In addition, in 1999, the Illinois legislature passed additional authorization for the Strategic Capital Improvement Program (SCIP) bonds in the amount of $1.3 billion, of which Metra’s share is $585 million. An additional $300 million bonding authority was also included in the Illinois legislative package. Metra’s share of the increased bonding authority is $135 million.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Capital cost estimates for the Central Kane Corridor project are considered reasonable given the project’s size and alignment.

Existing and Committed Funding: All non-Section 5309 New Starts funds are considered committed to the proposed project. Programmed resources include SCIP bond program revenues ($13.4 million); sales tax allocations ($20.7 million); and funding from participating municipalities ($4.6 million).

New and Proposed Sources: Only existing sources are proposed for the project.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: High

The High rating reflects the strong operating condition of Metra (the third largest commuter rail system in the country). The projected annual operating and maintenance costs needed for the project represent a minimal impact on Metra’s overall operations.

Agency Operating Condition: Metra is projecting systemwide operating budgets through the year 2001 that represent a 55 percent revenue recovery ratio. The proposed project is anticipated to require an additional operating subsidy of $1.3 million (escalated dollars). This estimate represents a 0.8 percent increase in operating assistance requirements. Metra’s share of RTA sales tax revenues – for the Central Kane Corridor project - is projected to increase by approximately 4 percent during this time period.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Annual operating and maintenance costs are estimated at $3.9 million (escalated dollars) per year. Operating and maintenance cost escalation factors are reasonable.

Existing and Committed Funding: All of the proposed project’s sources of operating funds (sales tax revenues) are existing and committed. Sales tax revenues, which are Metra’s primary source of non-operating revenue has been forecast - by an independent economic consulting firm – to grow at an annual rate of 4.5 percent through the year 2018. The sales tax is considered a reliable funding source since it responds to both growth in the economy and price level inflation. The project’s estimated annual operating deficit of $1.3 million represents less than a 1% increase in systemwide operating assistance requirements. Metra anticipates that the deficit will be covered through the RTA sales tax.

New and Proposed Sources: No new operating revenues are proposed for the project.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $54.30 $11.32 million appropriated through FY 2000
State: SCIP Bonds $13.40 N/A
Local: Metra $20.70 N/A
Local: Municipality Contributions $4.70 N/A
Total: $93.00

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 Commuter Rail Map. The project is an 8-mile extension to the existing 36-mile Union Pacific West (UPW) Line, and would extend trackage further west to Elburn, Illinois. The three new proposed stations to the west include Geneva Station, La Fox Station, and Elburn Station.

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