New Start Process STAR Line SouthEast Service UP-NorthWest UP-West MetraConnects


Illinois communities are growing rapidly, and Metra's goal is to continue to deliver safe, reliable and affordable service along our existing lines through infrastructure improvements that bring new service and commuting opportunities to hundreds of thousands of riders.

The Union Pacific Northwest (UP-NW) Line is Metra's longest line, extending from Chicago to Harvard with a seven-mile branch to McHenry. The line's 63 trains per day serve 72 communities in Cook, Lake and McHenry counties. The UP-NW Line region comprises more population and jobs than any other corridor, while carrying the second highest number of riders of Metra's 11 commuter lines.

Economic and population forecasts point to a greater demand for commuter rail service as employment in this corridor is expected to increase more than 60 percent by 2030. There are substantial employment centers near the UP-NW Line route and many areas are expected to experience phenomenal growth in the number of jobs. For example, the Palatine/Barrington area is projected to grow by nearly 28 percent in employment by 2030 and the Des Plaines/Mt. Prospect/Arlington Heights area is expected to add more than 8,000 jobs during the same period.

The proposed improvements would address this job growth by improving access to major businesses in the corridor including Ameritech, GE Capital, Motorola, Affinia Corporation, Northern Illinois Medical Center, Northwest Community Hospital and United Parcel Service.

This project calls for improving the UP-NW Line by extending service to a new station in the growing area of Johnsburg, which would serve eastern McHenry County and western Lake County and benefit Suburban Cook County. The number of commuter trains each day is expected to grow from 63 to 74 while express service has the potential to expand from 19 to 24 trains per day.

Rail yards would also be constructed at Johnsburg and Woodstock to permit more train capacity and the consolidation of maintenance operations, thereby promoting cost efficiency. Additionally, the improvements would give Metra more flexibility in service which would allow more travel options for commuters.

This and other New Start improvements and extensions could save commuters thousands of hours of travel time, eliminate hundreds of auto accidents and conserve millions of gallons of fuel.

Improvements along the
UP-NW Line would:

  • Provide expanded service and more transit options for commuters traveling into Chicago's Central Business District
  • Provide reverse-commuting options to address growing trends in public transportation
  • Spur economic growth by attracting new jobs and businesses that wish to take advantage of transit-oriented development
  • Allow for the construction of two new rail yards to permit more train capacity and consolidate operations thereby promoting cost efficiency and providing more travel options for commuters
  • Increase the line's core capacity to help serve the strong anticipated growth in employment