With Kennedy construction looming, Metra adds trains to UP Northwest Line

12 more trains will be added starting April 3

People wait for the Metra train to arrive from Chicago on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at the Crystal Lake Metra station in downtown Crystal Lake.

With Kennedy Expressway construction kicked off, Metra is adding trains to its Union Pacific Northwest Line effective April 3.

The commuter railway will add 12 more trains to its weekday service, surpassing prepandemic levels, officials said Thursday.

The move converges with a massive, three-year Kennedy bridge rehabilitation closed two inbound lanes in 2023 starting Monday.

Illinois Department of Transportation engineers have warned drivers to expect delays and consider traveling at off-peak times or take public transit.

Punishing expressway traffic could work to Metra’s advantage as the agency tries to rebuild ridership decimated by COVID-19.

“Metra has been monitoring ridership as well as customer feedback, and these schedule changes respond to ridership trends and increase capacity and convenience by expanding peak period as well as off-peak service,” Metra Executive Director Jim Derwinski said in a statement. “With a major multiyear rehab project scheduled to start on the Kennedy Expressway, this new schedule allows Metra to provide more commuters with a viable and much less stressful alternative to driving.”

The updated schedule will offer trains every 30 minutes during rush hour and every hour at most stations at other times. The 12 extra trips will increase the UP Northwest’s weekday train count to 78 compared to 66 currently and 65 before the pandemic.

Metra has been gradually upping its service levels after significant rollbacks in 2020 when many commuters worked from home.

The changes mean some travel times will be tweaked on existing service.

Riders can find details on revised schedules at metra.com/alternate-schedules.

Starting April 3, three more afternoon trains will depart Ogilvie Transportation Center between 3 and 5 p.m., including one at 3:22 p.m. that stops in McHenry as a result of rider requests.

Harvard and Woodstock commuters will see two additional inbound trains and one additional outbound while Crystal Lake commuters using the downtown station will see three more inbound trains and two more outbound.

IDOT is focusing on bridges on the Kennedy’s inbound lanes this year. Work will switch to the reversible lanes in 2024 and the outbound corridor in 2025.

Starting next week, the two left inbound lanes will be closed for construction. The two right lanes will stay open, and the reversible lanes will also accommodate inbound traffic.

In July, the right lanes will close and the left lanes will reopen. The work is expected to stretch through November.

Northwest Herald editor Emily Coleman contributed to this report.