As part of the effort to bring passenger rail back to Peoria, city officials this week unveiled a proposed route connecting Peoria to Chicago.
It would stay west of the Illinois River, following the curve of the river to make stops in LaSalle-Peru and Ottawa before heading to Morris, Joliet and finally Chicago.
But a push to bring Amtrak passenger rail is still in its early stages, as Peoria launched a 10-question public survey asking citizens their opinions on restoring rail service. Data collected through April will be used to show federal and state officials — who would be asked to provide the bulk of the money for any route — whether the idea is viable.
Peoria Mayor Rita Ali said area leaders have been "100% committed to this effort since day one" to bring "fast, frequent, affordable trains" to Peoria, and encouraged residents to take the survey, which is estimated to take no more than 2 1/2 minutes.
Challenges remain: What's stopping Amtrak from coming to Peoria? Time, money and history
What are the next steps?
Many questions regarding bringing passenger rail to Peoria — such as the cost of the project, where it will go, when it might happen, where it will happen and if it will happen at all — are subject to the feasibility study currently being conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Separately, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission will soon launch a $50,000 study on sites for a train station that would serve as a possible multi-modal transportation hub in Peoria.
It could include passenger rail, bus and bicycle systems, said commission director Eric Miller. Possible sites are likely to be located on or near the Illinois River.
At a news conference this week, Ali said the effort to get Amtrak in Peoria was "making progress and gaining momentum."
She has spent months working with former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and a committee of local officials and civic group leaders, and meetings are expected with federal Transportation Department staff in the coming months.
Passenger rail efforts failed in both 2011 and 2013 following studies. But the focus of those was on creating a commuter line from Peoria to Bloomington-Normal, not a line from Peoria to Chicago.
The nearest Amtrak connections to the area are in Normal and in Galesburg.
Councilmembers widely support passenger rail returning to Peoria
Many councilmembers praised the effort.
At-large councilmember Sid Ruckriegel said he's been hearing about residents "missing" passenger rail in Peoria since he moved here 30 years ago.
At-large councilmember John Kelly said he has "always wanted to reinstate our train service" in Peoria.
At-large councilmember Beth Jensen and 4th District councilmember Andre Allen both called the proposal "exciting" for Peoria. Allen noted that seeking state and federal dollars was key.
Passenger rail would be a "huge enticement" given the number of Bradley University students hailing from Chicago, 3rd District councilmember Tim Riggenbach added.
Peoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Joshua Gunn said he thought bringing passenger rail back to Peoria was a "critical step to encouraging a vibrant economy here in Peoria."
J.D. Dalfonso, the president of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said passenger rail would benefit the Peoria economy by increasing its connectivity to other Illinois cities.
This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Peoria-to-Chicago Amtrak route proposed. Public survey looks at demand