DWIGHT – Village President Jared Anderson said it’s only fitting Dwight – a town founded by railroad engineers – is the first town in Illinois to break ground on a new depot that will serve passengers on a high-speed rail network linking Chicago and St. Louis.
Anderson joined U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Amtrak officials and others in Dwight on Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony for the $3.26 million depot.
The 800-square-foot structure is expected to be complete within a year, providing shelter, restrooms and other amenities for Amtrak passengers.
The new depot aims to be a complement to Dwight’s historic 1891 train depot – one of the few remaining stations between Chicago and St. Louis featuring 19th century architectural design.
Anderson said Dwight’s inclusion on the high-speed rail corridor will be an economic driver for the community.
“With the advent of high-speed rail, we need to be talking about growing our passenger rail network in Illinois and keeping Illinois in the forefront of leading the Midwest in investment,” Anderson said. “This rail and this new depot in Dwight is a key economic tool for sustainability and economic development.”
The Lincoln Service line – which runs from Chicago to St. Louis and through Joliet – ferried 633,531 passengers in last federal fiscal year, a 25 percent increase from five years ago, according to an Amtrak news release.
However, Durbin pointed to the ongoing budget battle in Springfield and what it may mean for Amtrak funding. He said Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed cuts to Amtrak are a “disastrous decision” and fly in the face of the federal investments in improvements to Amtrak rail lines.
Downstate towns have plans to construct new depots or upgrade existing structures to accommodate passengers for high-speed rail. Joliet is in the midst of constructing its own new train station downtown. Amtrak’s Lincoln Service began operating in 2012 at a maximum speed of 110 mph along the 15-mile stretch of track between Dwight and Pontiac. As the high-speed rail is completed, speeds along other portions of rail will increase from the top speed of 79 mph to 110 mph. The high-speed rail project includes track, crossing, bridge and safety upgrades. Durbin said the project will mean good things for small communities along the corridor.
“When you get outside the Chicago area, a lot of communities depend on certain things for their identity,” Durbin said. “Amtrak services (are) an important part of the identity for Dwight … and this commitment for a new station is a commitment to the future that all these folks are here to celebrate,” Durbin said.