METRA'S LONG TERM VISION...
THE STAR LINE
The 55-mile Suburban Transit Access Route, or STAR Line, would initially connect nearly 100 communities and enhance Metra's hub-and-spoke system of rail passenger service by linking the spokes. It would be the first of its kind suburb-to-suburb commuter line extending from the Joliet area to O'Hare airport. The STAR Line would go beyond providing service to a single corridor or portion of the suburban area, but rather, connect the entire suburban community.
The STAR Line would allow for eventual seamless connection points to four existing Metra lines that feed the city of Chicago and the suburbs, including the North Central Service (NCS), Union Pacific West (UP-W), BNSF, and Milwaukee District West (MD-W) lines, marking a new day for inter-suburban transportation and giving motorists along congested roadways an alternative to driving.
Additionally, the service corridor of the proposed STAR Line, and the lines with which it would integrate, link the most populated areas in our region. Areas with major hospitals, colleges and universities, and business and employment centers will benefit-including key job centers along the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90), such as Motorola's campus in Schaumburg and Sears Holdings' campus at Prairie Stone in Hoffman Estates.
Through the STAR Line, Metra would establish key rail connections through the northwest, west and southwest suburbs and even offer an important base for extending suburban rail service in the future. The potential exists to extend service in later phases east from Joliet, north from Prairie Stone at Hoffman Estates, north and south along the Illinois Route 53/Interstate 290 corridor and to link O'Hare and Midway airports.
As population and job growth continue to spread throughout the Northeast Illinois region, several small Central Business Districts (CBDs) are developing in Suburban Cook and the collar counties. These mini-CBDs will only grow in number as developers take advantage of transit-oriented development by attracting employers who wish to capitalize on greater access to our region's labor pool.
The benefits of mass transportation exceed economics. Entire communities benefit from fewer cars on the road as emissions are lowered and traffic congestion is mitigated. For the 1.6 million residents who live in this area of high traffic congestion, this means approximately 750 fewer traffic accidents annually, a reliable and safe transportation option, and a public health savings of more than $1 million each year.
Metra is currently studying the use of Diesel Multiple Units or DMUs for the STAR Line. These 90-to-100 passenger vehicles are an exciting new transit technology that provide improved fuel efficiency, better acceleration, and greater flexibility compared to traditional commuter rail operations.
How it Would Work
The 55-mile route, connecting Joliet to O'Hare International Airport, calls for the use of two dedicated transportation corridors. The first corridor is known as the Outer Circumferential Corridor and runs approximately 36 miles along the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern (EJ&E) railroad corridor. The route starts on the border of Joliet and Plainfield, going north through Naperville, Aurora and West Chicago and continuing to Hoffman Estates at Prairie Stone.
The line would then connect to the Northwest Corridor Segment from Prairie Stone, heading east via Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village and Des Plaines and on to O'Hare International Airport.
The Northwest Corridor Segment is uncharted territory for rail infrastructure requirements. Along the 19 miles of tollway, we intend to build the rail system in the median (see rendering at left). This unique combination of highway corridor and existing railroad right-of-way would allow us to bring this extraordinary service to fruition.
New service in this region would:
- Give close to 1.2 million employees an alternative to driving
- Link to major economic business centers such as Navistar, Lucent Technologies, Tellabs, Nicor, Motorola, Woodfield Mall, Fermilab, Pepsi Co., the Prairie Stone Business Campus and major colleges, universities and hospitals
- Provide a safe, reliable transportation option to nearly 1.6 million residents who live in an area of high congestion
- Attract new businesses eager to take advantage of access to a Metra line
- Initially connect nearly 100 communities, filling a critical void for inter-suburban rail service and provide new service in areas currently without direct access to passenger rail service
- Allow for seamless connection points to four existing Metra lines, connecting the spokes in Metra's existing system