La Salle County officials react to Peoria-to-Chicago train pitch with stops in La Salle-Peru, Ottawa, and Morris

‘It would give a lot more opportunities for economic development’

Ottawa is proposed to be a stop on a Peoria-to-Chicago train route pitched by the city of Peoria.

The old stories parents and grandparents share of hopping on the “Rocket” for a day trip in Chicago or Peoria could be getting a modern take.

The city of Peoria is conducting a feasibility study with the Illinois Department of Transportation for a passenger train to run from Peoria to Chicago, with possible stops in Ottawa and La Salle-Peru.

Peoria Mayor Rita Ali said the project still is in the planning stages and actual construction upgrades could be years down the line.

La Salle is proposed as one of the stops on a Peoria-to-Chicago train route pitched by the city of Peoria.

As for locally, cities such as La Salle and Peru have a long history with trains. Peru Mayor Ken Kolowski said there’s a train in the city’s logo for a reason, and La Salle Mayor Jeff Grove said having a train come through like it did 50 years ago would benefit everyone.

“Any time you can bring convenient transportation out of Chicago and Peoria through the Illinois Valley it’s going to be a great thing,” Kolowski said. “Trains have a history with people in La Salle County and the possibility of having people stop in our community to shop and go to a Pistol Shrimp game, sure, that takes some time but it’s exciting. It’s a positive for the community.”

Kolowski said he found out about the new proposed passenger train at the same time as everyone else. He said he’s heard nothing of timelines or money yet and he probably won’t any time soon since it’s in the planning stages. He doesn’t see a downside to it, however.

Grove said he reached out to the city of Peoria on Wednesday morning to make sure they’re kept in the loop on all correspondence.

Ottawa Mayor Dan Aussem said this isn’t the first time a passenger rail study was performed that included Ottawa, but he’s happy to see Peoria has a good group of people working on it.

“It would give a lot more opportunities for economic development just because of people choosing to live in Ottawa or work in the area with places like Joliet, Peoria and Chicago available by rail or vice versa,” Aussem said.

Ottawa last had a rail study done in 2015 and Aussem said a city employee reached out to Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich, Wednesday morning to share the information discovered seven years ago.

Utica Mayor David Stewart said he’s following the news with considerable interest and plans to contact the study group to see if Utica and Starved Rock State Park somehow can be tied to the train’s route.

“This is something that’s definitely piqued my interest,” said Stewart, who said he’s inquired previously of rail opportunities into Utica. “I’d like to get some more information as to how this is all going to work, what their timelines are. I see now there are proposed stops between Ottawa and La Salle-Peru and I’d really like to get Utica added to that list.”

As the route is laid out right now, it would follow west of the Illinois River before making stops in La Salle-Peru and Ottawa.

Urich said during Peoria’s Wednesday City Council meeting this is a critical time to look at a passenger rail because Peoria is the largest metropolitan area in Illinois without a public rail system and there’s more money available for a rail project than ever because of the passage of the national infrastructure bill.

Urich said the next step is for Ali, the Peoria mayor, and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who is working on the project, to set up meetings with Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration to make the city’s case.

Those wishing to take a survey on the project can do so at https://s.surveyplanet.com/egj49vjq