CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–October 4, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by Amtrak Board Chairman Tom Carper to announce a $40 million capital construction project to improve Amtrak’s Union Station in Chicago. The project will double the passenger waiting area, add new restrooms and install air conditioning in the Great Hall. The two-year project will be financed through Amtrak’s capital projects budget and is expected to support 100 construction jobs.
“New high-speed and passenger rail service will bring thousands of visitors to downtown Chicago, boosting our tourism industry and supporting Illinois’ continued economic recovery,” said Governor Quinn. “This major construction project will put Illinoisians back to work and help Union Station give visitors to the city of Chicago a welcome befitting the Land of Lincoln.”
In January, the state of Illinois received $1.2 billion in high-speed rail funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), most of which will fund a high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis. The following day, Governor Quinn announced new service to Rockford and the Quad Cities from Union Station through the Illinois Jobs Now! capital plan.
Union Station serves as the hub for the Midwest network, which received $2.6 billion in ARRA funding in January, the most of any regional network. The network connects major cities and universities throughout the region to Chicago.
Over the next several years, new and improved high-speed and passenger rail service is expected to drastically increase ridership throughout Illinois and the Midwest. Amtrak has seen record ridership in 2010. Major Midwest routes to and from Union Station have all posted impressive ridership increases since 2009, including the Chicago-St. Louis service, which boasts an 11 percent improvement.
The Metropolitan Planning Council recently released a report citing the benefits to tourism of highspeed and expanded passenger rail service to Chicago. Projections show that over the next 10 years, an additional 800,000 tourists will visit Chicago because of the rail improvements, generating an additional $510 million in direct and indirect spending.
“Improvements to Union Station are a top priority for Amtrak,” said Amtrak Chairman Carper. “Illinois is a national leader for passenger rail, and its commitment to work with other Midwestern states to build a robust service network from Union Station will allow us to bring more travelers to and from Downtown Chicago.”
Designed by famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, Union Station opened in May 1925. On average, 55 Amtrak trains arrive at or depart Union Station each day. The station serves six of Metra’s 11 lines. On an average weekday, close to 140,000 passengers pass through Union Station. The Great Hall serves as one of Illinois’ top tourist and special events destinations, and has been a frequent location for motion pictures such as The Untouchables.