Chicago, Illinois/South West Corridor Commuter Rail
South West Corridor Commuter Rail
Metra, the commuter rail division of Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) of Northeastern Illinois, is proposing to construct 12 additional miles to an existing 29-mile corridor connecting Union Station in downtown Chicago to 179th Street in Orland Park, Illinois. The project would extend commuter rail service from Orland Park southwest to Manhattan, Illinois. The project also includes the construction of three miles of a second mainline track, two additional stations, parking facilities and multiple track, signal and station improvements. In addition, two existing rail yards would be expanded, a third rail yard would be constructed and several railroad bridges would be rehabilitated. Metra also plans to purchase two diesel locomotives and 13 bi-level passenger cars. The project also includes the relocation of the Union Station terminal in downtown Chicago to the Lasalle Street Station, also in Chicago. Total capital cost for the South West Corridor improvements are estimated at $218.7 million (escalated dollars). Metra estimates that 13,800 average weekday boardings, including 7,600 daily new riders, will use the full South West Corridor line (including the 11-mile extension) in the year 2020.
In April 1997, Metra initiated a Major Investment Study (MIS) for the South West Corridor (SWC). 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 along the corridor to employment in the Chicago central business district. The MIS was completed in August 1998. Based on the results of the MIS, Metra selected Rail Alternative R1 as the Locally Preferred Alternative, which provides for the upgrade of commuter rail service in the SWC with an extension to Manhattan, Illinois. The LPA was included in the Chicago Area Transportation Study’s (local MPO) 2020 Long-Range Transportation Plan and Transportation Improvement Program in November 1997. In December 1998, FTA approved Metra’s request to initiate preliminary engineering/environmental review process on the SWC project. Metra completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project in September 2000. FTA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on the EA in October 2000. Metra has submitted a request to enter final design for the SWC project and is also preparing a Full Funding Grant Agreement application.
TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(43) authorizes the “Southwest Extension [Metra]” for final design and construction. Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated $17.86 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds to the project.