CHICAGO – Metra operates commuter rail service between the downtown Chicago business district and 224 stations in northeast Illinois communities over 12 routes totaling approximately 500 miles of service territory.

The commuter rail line operates 700 weekday trains, providing 300,000 daily passenger trips and 1.9 billion passenger miles.

In January, Metra announced its intentions to build a new service line that would introduce a state-of-the-art new fleet of Diesel Multiple Unit trains (DMUs). The line would connect nearly 100 communities in the region with its commuter rail service.

Officials say the 55-mile STAR Line – only the second new commuter rail line in the region’s nearly 150-year-old history of commuter rail service – will create a dynamic suburban transportation grid that will complement Metra’s existing high-performing suburb-to-city service model and position Illinois among the leaders in the nation for inter-suburban commuter rail connectivity.

The Outer Circumferential Segment (OCS) will connect Joliet and Hoffman Estates via the Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway (EJ&E) corridor. The Northwest Corridor Segmenr (NCWS) is a new alignment, connecting the OCS to the I-90 corridor via a connection at Prairie Stone east to O’Hare International Airport along I-90 to the Des Plaines Oasis, then south on the freight railroad corridor to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and the CTA connection at the proposed new western terminal.

Metra’s new STAR Line lies within five miles of many of the region’s fastest-growing new housing developments, major hospitals, college and university campuses, large shopping malls, and major business headquarters such as 3 Com, BP, Fermi Lab, IKEA, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Navistar, Nicor, Pfizer, SBC, Sears, Siemens, and Tellabs, among others. Additionally, the eastern end of the new service line feeds into O’Hare International Airport.

“National forecasts continue to underscore the need for more service, driven especially by new household migration to the suburbs and forecasted robust growth in new suburban job development,” Jeffrey R. Ladd, chairman of Metra’s Board of Directors, said. “As the region’s commuter rail service provider, we understand there is an established need for inter-suburban service that allows for seamless access points to existing Metra routes. That potential will not be fully realized until a basic suburban grid is in place.”

In February, Metra announced plans to add a new commuter line from Crete – in south suburban Will County – to Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station, known as the Southeast Service Line, to its list of T-3 projects. Metra will pursue funding for these projects in the next federal transportation authorization bill.

The line would run along Union Pacific/CSX railroad tracks with potential stops at Dolton, South Holland, Thornton, Glenwood, Chicago Heights, South Chicago Heights, and Steger. Metra will request $500 million for this project as part of its authorization.

The other four T-3 projects include a $1.1 billion 55-mile service line, the STAR Line, and three core capacity projects totaling $530 million that will improve service for 60 percent of Metra’s customer base.

“We are intending to move all five projects as a total package,” Phil Pagano, Metra executive director, said. “It will be a very competitive authorization and appropriations process and we hope to get strong support from the Illinois Congressional delegation. Congressman Jackson will be the lead sponsor for the Southeast Service Line.”

This does not exclude further study on the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway going east from Joliet and north from Hoffman Estates.

Pagano added: “initially omitting the Southeast Line was clearly an oversight on Metra’s part.”