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Ex-software developer is driven to construct Chicago's new rail line.

Posted by Emily O'Dowd on May 9, 2017

Chicago’s transit system Frank Patton, Founder and Managing Partner of Great Lakes Basin Transportation (Photo courtesy of: Chicago Tribune)first began operations in 1892 which makes it the second oldest line in the US. Despite an overall decline in mass transit, passenger ridership in the state has continued to remain stable for the past forty years. The famous Chicago ‘L’ shape is however, facing some new challenges. It is struggling to improve its capacity and new investment opportunists are recognising the potential to improve Chicago’s transit by adding another line. These opportunists under the business name, Great Lakes Basin Transportation (GLBT) are trying to pass plans to construct a $2.8 billion rail bypass. This privately-owned rail company is seeking to construct and operate a new railway line through parts of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

Why is a new railway needed in Chicago?

Chicago’s network is already heavily congested without responding to the capacity issues, and additions have not been made to its infrastructure since 1907. Statistics produced by the Delaware registered company reveal that Chicago’s rail network delays amount to 500 trains a day which is a quarter of all rail freight in the US every day. Today, that traffic has to fight its way through a crowded terminal area that also hosts about 700 Metra and Amtrak passenger trains every weekday. 

"The “entirely new” train would stretch as far as 420km running between 60 and 140km from the centre of Chicago."

Additionally, the report highlighted that the levels of freight are predicted to grow by 80 to 90 percent between 2040 and 2050. The severe winters of 2012-13 and 2013-14 underscored how problematic the Chicago rail terminal can be. As weather delays grew, the terminal was quickly stretched beyond its capacity, creating severe delays for commodities moving through the terminal. And because Chicago is the most important hub for the six largest Class 1 railroads, those delays reverberated throughout the entire North American rail network.

Frank Patton is the behind the creation of the plans, and founded GLBT in 2011. Previously, Frank founded, owned and managed a software company for 32 years. Now his main goal is to develop a reliable, safe and secure railroad throughout Chicago.

According to Frank Patton, “The Build Program represents an historic step forward toward meeting the future transportation requirements of the Midwest. It is critical to begin this work now, pursuing all required legal and environmental reviews and approvals, so that these new rail, road and air facilities will be in place when they are needed. Great Lakes Basin pledges to work with interested federal, state and local government entities to make this privately funded program a reality.”

As the region continues to expand, more rail capacity will be needed. However, the present network is surrounded by urban development so it would be expensive and potentially impossible to add more track to Chicago’s terminal. GLBT believe they present the answer.


Their proposal would aim to create a new line to link with the existing main lines which enter the Chicago area, add capacity and anticipate future growth. At the same time, this would avoid all the major population centres within the state.

GLBT believe many unit commodity trains and mixed carload and intermodal trains could avoid Chicago’s congestion and transfer from railroad to railroad in eight hours or less under normal circumstances. The capacity relief resulting from the GLBR project should allow the railroads to better handle their Chicago proper and suburban traffic, and make room for potential future growth within the existing terminal network. What is more, the increased capacity offered by the GLBT will enhance the effectiveness of other projects designed to improve traffic flow within the Chicago rail hub.

The “entirely new” train would stretch as far as 420km running between 60 and 140km from the centre of Chicago.Click here to read the digital guide - Protecting Rail and Metro From Cyber Security Threats It would be a line operating separately from other rail and road infrastructure to allow 110 passenger and freight trains a day to pass through the Chicago region.

Great Lakes has said that construction will require no public funding as it would be paid through the sale of debt securities.

You can find out more about GLTB here: 

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Topics: projects

Emily O'Dowd

Written by Emily O'Dowd

On graduating with a degree in English Literature at Royal Holloway University of London, Emily joined the editorial team. When she isn't writing articles for the website or interviewing experts in the industry she enjoys reading, running and sailing.

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