Huntley included on new Amtrak route

Village part of plan to restart Amtrak service between Chicago, Rockford

HUNTLEY – The village will soon have its first modern train station, after Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday a $223 million plan to restart Amtrak service between Chicago and Rockford.

Huntley, along with Elgin and Belvidere, are included as stops along the new route that would open Rockford to passenger rail service for the first time since 1981. Village officials shared the news after initially reviewing Weber Grills' expansion plan that could create nearly 500 jobs within Huntley.

They now will meet with state officials about the new Amtrak route and begin identifying a location for the train stop.

"It's a positive because it offers another mode of transportation that currently is not here," Village Manager Dave Johnson said. "If somebody wants to go to the city and sightsee for the weekend, now there is an option to do that."

In 2010, area congressmen, state representatives and village officials all lobbied the Illinois Department of Transportation to make Huntley a part of a new Amtrak line connecting Chicago to Dubuque, Iowa.

State officials ultimately agreed to connect that proposed route further south and began negotiating with the Canadian National Railway to use its tracks for the new rail line.

Those plans changed Thursday after years of failed negotiations between state officials and Canadian National. A new northern route that passes through Huntley will instead use tracks owned by Metra and Union Pacific Railroad, Quinn announced in a news release.

Service should begin in 2015 with one daily round-trip from a temporary station in Rockford to Chicago's Union Station. Officials would then expand service the following year and eventually connect the new route west to Dubuque.

During their meeting, Huntley officials said they were never told about the change in plans for the Amtrak route until seeing a news release on it earlier in the evening.

Huntley has long coveted a train route that cuts through the village, dating to the 1990s when they began planning for a Metra stop.

"We are excited about this," Village President Chuck Sass said. "We potentially have Weber, we have this and the (new) hospital. A lot of good things are happening here."

In other business, Village Board members met with representatives from Weber-Stephen Products for the first time about the company's plan to expand its operation and create nearly 500 jobs within Huntley.

The maker of Weber Grills would make its current facility behind the Jewel-Osco in Huntley a manufacturing factory and build a global distribution center next to the Huntley Outlet Center along Interstate 90.

Weber could inch closer to construction next month, when board members likely will vote on annexing 131 acres east of the outlet mall that would house the new distribution center, Johnson said.

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