HUNTLEY – Area residents would start boarding Amtrak trains from downtown Huntley by late 2015, under a $3.55 million agreement with the state unanimously approved by the Village Board on Thursday.
Huntley's downtown station is a part of the state's $223 million plan to restart Amtrak service between Chicago and Rockford for the first time since the early 1980s. Elgin and Belvidere are the additional stops along the revived passenger rail line.
The village has tried to secure a passenger rail station for decades, originally planning for a downtown Metra stop. A new Amtrak station could drive additional traffic to Huntley and would provide residents another option to visit Chicago, said Village Manager Dave Johnson.
"We've been working with the Illinois Department of Transportation for months now to get this agreement ready for the board's consideration," Johnson told board members. "This is really the kickoff to the project."
The $3.55 million agreement makes the state transportation department responsible for $2.92 million in construction work. The village would contribute $625,000 for engineering and architectural services.
Under the deal, both parties would have a new train platform and additional station parking constructed no later than late November 2015, meaning passenger train service in Huntley would start then.
The Huntley station would be located in the area bounded by Main Street to the north, Church Street to the east, Mill Street to the south, and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the west.
"The stop in Huntley is an important part in the success of this route, with the potential to provide commuters with another travel option and create jobs and economic development in McHenry County," said IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell.
The state transportation department originally worked to revive passenger rail service between Chicago and Rockford in 2010, when the agency decided to bypass Huntley and place the proposed Amtrak route farther south.
But after years of fruitless negotiations with Canadian National Railway on the route, Gov. Pat Quinn decided earlier this spring to work with Union Pacific and place service along its railroad tracks that cut through Huntley.
At the time of the announcement, Quinn said train service along the route would begin in 2015 with one daily round-trip from a temporary station in Rockford to Chicago's Union Station. State officials would then work to expand service the following year and eventually connect the new route west to Dubuque, Iowa.
Quinn's decision to change direction on the Amtrak route even surprised Huntley officials, who first heard about the change through a news release.
The state potentially could change course again, depending on whether Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner wants to extend his campaign pledge to shake up Springfield to his predecessor's passenger rail plans.
"The ongoing planning efforts on all of our projects are continuing, and we anticipate sharing information about them during the transition process," Tridgell said. "We are prepared to address any questions the new administration might have regarding the current status of our projects."