Before the election, Gov. Pat Quinn told us a new Amtrak route connecting Dubuque, Iowa, and Chicago would run through McHenry County, Belvidere, and Rockford on its way westward.
The state had the money, Quinn said, and would pay the $62.3 million it would cost to run the line through Huntley and Marengo. Last week, the Illinois Department of Transportation, no doubt with Quinn’s tacit approval, reversed course.
Now the line will skirt McHenry County and Belvidere altogether, instead running through South Elgin and Genoa before curving north toward Rockford.
Chalk up another loss for McHenry County, a place rarely visited by most of our statewide politicians.
In reneging on the governor’s promise, IDOT said that the southern route would be cheaper by about $36 million and attract more riders (76,357 instead of 54,988.)
Was McHenry County one of the “surrounding areas” in the study? Did it take into account that Huntley has been one of the state’s fastest-growing communities, with more than 1,000 homes approved for construction and expanded access to Interstate 90 in the works?
Or that Huntley and Marengo both are eager to bring Metra commuter service to their communities as they continue to grow?
There is great local demand for commuter rail service. As the past couple of decades have proven, McHenry County has been a desirable area for homebuyers, and it will be again.
But once again, the state snubs McHenry County, where transportation improvements progress with all the speed of rush-hour traffic. Like the way we were told a western bypass of routes 31 and 62 in Algonquin would take five to seven years to finish ... in 1997.
The state’s flip-flop on the Amtrak plan is a net loss for the area, which once again will have to wait to address the needs of its underserved – and overtaxed – citizens.