Chicago will always be in my blood. I was born and raised about 20 miles west, and it never took a lot of coordinating to buzz up there for a day with friends or family. It's a city of big shoulders but also a big heart. Anthony Bourdain said it best: "Chicago is a town, a city that doesn’t ever have to measure itself against any other city. Other places have to measure themselves against it."

On that note, a news story caught my eye the other night. Apparently, Dubuque is looking at a letter encouraging the city to explore options of building a rail-line extension from Chicago to Dubuque.

The last time a passenger train connected both the Key City and the Windy City was in 1981. It was discontinued in the 1980s due to a rise increased vehicle-use, which in turn dropped the demand for a rail line.

Now, the East Central Intergovernmental Agency is working with the Illinois DOT Secretary of Transportation in combatting the congestion issues people (including Dubuquers) face when trying to get to Chicago.

Photo Credit: Ramapasha Laksono, Unsplash
Photo Credit: Ramapasha Laksono, Unsplash

One of the signs I'm from the Midwest is, when planning any trip, I always just think, "I'll drive, it's only 'X' hours away." Maybe you're looking to make a trip to Chicago soon, or you're just curious about cost-effective ways to get there. We might not see a direct train for sometime (if we do at all), but we do have three options as of right now.

The website Rome2Rio helped a ton with this research.

You could drive: Driving is the go-to option for many of us. In the grand scheme, three and a half hours on the road isn't a killer. The distance between Dubuque and Chicago is roughly 180 miles (specific neighborhoods could add or subtract from that). But with gas prices the way they are (even higher in Chicago), coupled with parking fees, it's understandable you'd want to seek an alternate mode of transportation.

You could bus: Burlington Trailways pops up on Rome2Rio as the "cheapest" and "recommended" option when traveling from Dubuque to Chicago. Its website is user-friendly in terms of booking a ticket, or just general price-searching. It looks like a one-way ticket for two adults would run you about $111, if you wanted to leave in the afternoon.

Understand that at least when you take a bus, you can mitigate the high costs of parking. To that point, Chicago is a city where walking goes a long way. You can find your way around to dozens of restaurants, bars, lounges, coffeeshops, and shops in virtually any given stretch.

You could fly: The Dubuque Regional Airport offers several scheduled flights to Chicago. You can use their "True Cost of Travel" calculator to see the savings flying could offer you. You'll also find many amenities at the Dubuque Airport are cheaper than, say, O'Hare.

Photo Credit: Aris, Unsplash
Photo Credit: Aris, Unsplash

One day, you could Amtrak: Separate from the previously detailed rail line, an Amtrak rail route between Chicago and Dubuque via Rockford. The proposed route, known as "Black Hawk," would initially be a connected line between Chicago and Rockford with Dubuque being added later as the westernmost destination. Upon full development, the Amtrak train would make seven stops.

The COVID-19 pandemic clearly didn't help these efforts, but in their five-year service line plan, Amtrak did forecast that the Chicago-Rockford route would begin operation in 2025 and attract an upwards of 130,000 riders a year. As of late, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021, which included $4 billion for public transportation in Illinois.

The project, like the other proposed rail route, is a way's away. In time, however, it could still materialize and provide Dubuquers and Chicagoans some stronger connective tissue. For now, however, we do have multiple, helpful options.

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