Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn was in Dwight on Thursday to announce the completion of the new high-speed rail passenger station in the village's downtown district.
Amtrak and village officials also were on hand, and the new station opened for Amtrak service on Friday. The new station is the first of several improvements overseen by the Illinois Department of Transportation as part of the high-speed rail project.
"The new Dwight station is a prime example of how we can work together to invest in communities, provide people with options on how they wish to travel and improve the quality of life for themselves and their families," Blankenhorn said. "We appreciate your patience while we worked with the village to deliver these improvements in one of our state's great communities."
The 1,500-square-foot building features a peaked roof, glass façade and modern facilities and amenities for passengers on Amtrak's Lincoln Service. Features include connections to bicycle and pedestrian paths, free Wi-Fi and parking for both vehicles and bikes.
Construction of the new station began in August 2015 at the site of a former grain elevator, only about a block from the town's historic depot, which will remain mainly a museum. The old station was built by the Chicago and Alton Railroad in 1891 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's the home of the Dwight Historical Society and the Dwight Chamber of Commerce.
"The completion of this bright, new, all-weather station in Dwight is another major milestone in the work by all the partners to further improve Amtrak service on this corridor," said Mike Franke, Amtrak senior director of state government contracts. "As we put more of these improvements in place in the months ahead, we are confident customer counts will continue to increase and we will see these investments pay off in higher ridership."
According to Amtrak studies, the Dwight station has shown an increase in ridership in recent years, despite the fact the Dwight Correctional Center closed in 2013.
Funding for the $3.26 million station is part of federal grant administered by IDOT to introduce passenger rail service at speeds up to 110 mph on the Union Pacific Railroad corridor between Chicago and St. Louis. New stations also are being built in Pontiac, Normal, Carlinville and Alton. The stations in Lincoln and Springfield will be upgraded.