; Impact on Rail Industry - CREATE Program

Impact on the Rail industry

Our Impact on the Rail Industry

The rail industry is important to our region.

  • In Illinois, more than 18,000 people are employed by freight and passenger railroads.
  • There are more than 38,000 rail-related jobs in Illinois.
  • Railroad wages are highly competitive, averaging $111,630 a year with benefits.

And our railways are busy…so busy that Chicago is the primary freight rail hub of North America.

  • Nearly 1,300 trains pass through the region daily (500 freight and 800 passenger & commuter).
  • Every day, one-fourth of the nation’s freight rail traffic is heading to, from, or through Chicago (about 37,500 railcars).
  • Nearly half of all intermodal traffic passes through the Chicago region’s railroad network.

The U.S. rail network depends on Chicago, and the CREATE Program is stepping up to modernize our railways to handle our region’s and nation’s freight and passenger needs. The infrastructure improvements being implemented through the CREATE Program are critical to fully unlocking the potential of the United States’ freight rail system and to serving growing future demand:

  • Freight Rail: Our region’s rail network was originally built more than a century ago, when the volumes and types of freight being carried was very different from today. Today, an average rail car that may take as little as 48 hours to travel the 2,200 miles from Los Angeles to Chicago spends an average of 30 hours traversing the Chicago region. Average speeds of freight trains operating in the region typically range from 5 to 12 miles per hour, depending on the route. During the next 30 years, demand for freight rail service in Chicago is expected to nearly double. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation forecasts a 150 percent increase in the volume of imported and exported goods that will travel to, from or through Chicago via rail from 2010 to 2040. And as online sales increase in the coming years, the number of high-value products that are shipped via rail is expected to increase, too.
  • Intercity Passenger Rail: Chicago is Amtrak’s primary rail hub outside of the Northeast Corridor; nearly all long-distance and Midwest intercity passenger rail service begins or ends at downtown’s Union Station. In Illinois, Amtrak service operates almost entirely on freight-owned track, so addressing freight train delays is also critical to Amtrak. The Midwest regional passenger rail network is poised for growth, and Chicago’s rail network must add capacity and reduce delays to safely and efficiently satisfy the future passenger demand.
  • Commuter Rail: From 1983, its first year of operation, through 2019, Metra ridership has increased 46 percent, averaging 1.7 percent growth annually. In 2019, Metra operated more than 700 weekday trains with a daily volume of 312,700 unlinked passenger trips throughout the Chicago region. But Metra’s network of 488 route miles with 240 stations is prone to delays where it crosses freight rail lines at grade or shares tracks with freight trains.

Growing commuter ridership, increasing freight volumes and congestion born of a shared rail network create delays affecting both passenger and freight trains and make operating timely and reliable rail service a constant challenge. But if we can meet the growing need for efficient and improved rail infrastructure, it will mean more jobs and increased economic opportunity for our city, region and state.