If you commute between Waukegan and Gurnee frequently enough, drivers may notice a quick Amtrak train parked on the Grand Avenue bridge between First Street and O’Plaine Road. At least six times per day, long-distance trains pass through Lake County. However, some of these silver-and-blue-coated trains, like Amtrak’s Empire Builder, travel further north and west and finally arrive at Seattle’s King Street station a few days later. The typical route runs between Chicago and Milwaukee.
The lengthy rail trip passes through some of the picturesque northern regions of the country as well as some unattractive “Sage Bush Sea.” Closer to home, commuters from the Milwaukee area take Canadian Pacific freight company-owned rail lines to Chicago’s striking multimodal Union Station, where they disembark, spend the day at work, enjoy the Hiawatha, and then board the train to head back north. This station is a monument to the railroad. I was informed that at the very least.
The number of passengers travelling the 90-minute route between Chicago and Milwaukee (if planned) climbed by 132% between 1997 and 2022, according to US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. There would be more travellers if Lake County had an Amtrak station. Even more so when you take into account that the government of President Joe Biden intends to improve and modernise the nation’s rail passenger service in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions and change the transportation sector.
For route and system extensions, including new intercity rail corridors, the government has more than $16 billion available this year alone. The US has neglected rail travel since the early 1960s when the heyday of rail passenger service came to an end, and instead spent trillions of dollars on building new interstates, roads, and highways. Similar resources have been used to establish air travel as the preferred method of overland travel.
Union Station, which opened in 1925 and will commemorate its 100th birthday in less than three years, will receive some of the extra federal funds for renovations. Daniel Burnham, a well-known architect from Chicago and adherent of the maxim “Make no little designs,” was one of the first advocates of a large Union Station. According to the Secretary of Transportation, Union Station is currently Amtrak’s busiest rail depot in the Midwest and fourth-busiest in the country.
Therefore, Lake County congressional and state representatives ought to board and push for the construction of an Amtrak station on Waukegan’s far western edge. The Canadian Pacific Rail Line, which runs Amtrak trains, runs along Fountain Square’s western perimeter. Amtrak trains frequently travel along Route 120, notably on weekends, close to the entertainment and shopping complex. At the moment, trains on the Hiawatha Line stop in Wisconsin at Glenview and Sturtevant.
It makes even more sense for an Amtrak terminal to be a catalyst for economic growth now that American Place Casino is about to build in this area. A station there would give county residents another rail transportation choice in addition to the three Metra lines that now service commuters. When it comes to the direction of rail transportation, Metra is constantly moving forward.
The board of directors of Metra decided earlier this month to convert up to six of the railroad’s oldest diesel locomotives to battery power that emits no emissions, with the goal of putting them into service in the middle of 2026. The Rock Island Line will be used by Metra to test the battery-powered locomotives, which should have a range of around 150 miles. The railway authority is updating its fleet in three ways to address diesel emissions, air quality, and noise pollution. One of these initiatives is the green livery of battery-powered locomotives.
Of course, some commuters who use the train system in Lake County with the outdated, all-electric North Shore Line was still in operation. The passenger line back then travelled two routes along catenaries, the wire and support catenary system from which the futuristic-looking Electroliners received their power to run. Mundelein travelled through Libertyville and Rondout was reached by the passenger line via the Mundelein route.
Those with vision had run the South Shore Line, the eastern cousin of the North Shore, from Indiana to Chicago. It is the only electric line owned by Metra and was bought by the agency in 1987. The North Shore is thought by some to have originated during a regrettable late rail age. The deadline for this most recent promised railroad revival shouldn’t be missed by Lake County.