Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: Readers weigh in on potential Amtrak Chicago-Peoria line

Choo-choo, or not choo-choo, that is the hackneyed premise.

Today’s subject is trains, and not just to mark the 135th anniversary of the Great Chatsworth Train Wreck, which claimed 85 lives in Livingston County (for a deep dive, visit tinyurl.com/ChatsworthWreck).

On July 23 I wrote about about plans to establish an Amtrak line from Chicago to Peoria, which if started soon could cost $2.45 billion over 10 years. A recent feasibility study earlier, with 31,000 respondents, showed 95% likely to use such a line. Officials estimate between 440 and 830 riders across five daily round trips.

Initial feedback was encouraging. Mokena’s Tim W. wrote “I wholeheartedly agree that the (re)establishment of this passenger rail route is long overdue.

“The last time this service ran was in 1977. The company that ran it (Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad) filed for bankruptcy and was dissolved three years later. Significantly, the Rock Island had been running Chicago-Peoria passenger service and other passenger routes for over 120 years, which stopped because of the Rock’s deteriorating financial condition and lack of funds required to transfer their passenger business to Amtrak.

“As a regular visitor to Starved Rock State Park and other Illinois Valley tourist attractions, I view the lack of passenger train service on this corridor as a lost opportunity. Frankly, passenger rail in this country is abysmal as compared to other nations such as Great Britain, which I have experienced first-hand as having an excellent passenger rail network.

“As with anything worthwhile, this will require work. I have railroad industry background and the willingness to help.”

Phil H. was less enthusiastic:

“It’s shortsighted to think I’m going to drive to the Metra station, take a train to Union Station, take another train to Peoria, rent a car, take care of business, wait until the next train leaves for Chicago and retrace my steps home. Ain’t going to happen. Right now I can jump in my car, leave when I want, travel on an interstate, and return when I want. Only downside is I’m burning carbon to do it. …

“I say spend the $2.45B on electric cars. I know the infrastructure isn’t established for electric cars but it isn’t established for high speed railroads either. We should be looking to the future with transportation, not dreaming about how great it is to sit on a train and watch the corn fields go by. Train travel is for tourists, and people with a lot of time on their hands. Help the business people get from point A to point B with electric and hybrid cars. Government can do a lot to help incentivize buying EVs.”

Is this an either-or proposition? My mailbox is open.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.