PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — It’s full steam ahead for plans to bring passenger rail service to Peoria.

On Thursday, local and state leaders released the results of a feasibility study and public interest survey.

“Peoria is one of the major cities in Illinois that’s not connected to the same Amtrak system. We intend to change that,” said Ray LaHood, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

There has not been a passenger rail service in the Peoria region since the 1980’s.

In August of 2021, Mayor Rita Ali and Sec. LaHood formed a committee to explore bringing the service back.

“We requested an interest and feasibility study from the Illinois Department of Transportation, IDOT, and IDOT responded,” said Ali.

Last fall, IDOT and Patrick Engineering launched the feasibility study.

The proposed route would connect Peoria to Chicago with stops in Peru-LaSalle, Utica, Ottawa, Morris, and Joliet. Locations for a train station that are being considered include near the Gateway Building or the post office in downtown Peoria.

Based on five round trips, the feasibility study projects an average ridership of 600 people daily.

In January, a survey was also created to gauge public interest, and in just over a month more than 31,000 people gave their input. 95% of the participants in the survey said they would likely use the rail service.

Implementing passenger rail is estimated to cost upwards of $2.5 billion, but LaHood said there’s no better time to secure those funds. Last year, Congress passed a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that includes $66 billion for rail.

LaHood said after discussions with federal leaders, that there’s good reason to be optimistic.

“We have the interest at the federal level which is absolutely critical,” LaHood said.

Mayor Ali said the next step is seeking additional funding to perform a Phase 1 study. The city will apply for funding through the FRA Corridor Identification and Development Program which will open for applications this fall.

“We have a green light to move forward and I am very very encouraged,” Ali said.

LaHood said he expects it will take at least 10 years before passenger rail service in Peoria could become operational.