CHICAGO — Leaders from Illinois and Michigan urged President Joe Biden on Thursday to sign off on a massive investment to revamp the rail system. 

The Chicago HUB Improvement Program is a series of proposed projects that would cost more than a billion dollars. 

“We have seen in recent years the interest in rail – on the passenger side in particular – is outpacing what our infrastructure can handle,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omar Osman.  

An application for a federal grant worth $872 million was first submitted early last year, with local agencies like Cook County and Metra contributing another $218 million combined.

“This project isn’t just about Chicago – it’s not even about Illinois – it’s about the entire nation,” said State Senator Tammy Duckworth.  

While the federal grant did not come down the line, the hope is with a presidential election looming, the venture would be approved by the end of the year. 

“Chicago is the heart and soul of the nation,” said Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker. “We are seeing an increase in conventions that are coming to the city of Chicago. The fact that we have so much rail traffic, in and out of Chicago already, adding to the fact that we are seeing growth, that should be enough impetus for folks in Washington.” 

But what would Chicago do with the money? 

Daily train commuter Sandy DiGiulio told WGN News she favors anything encouraging folks to use public transport. 

“There’s more and more people using it. Flying is expensive, so if you can make trains more comfortable, I think people would use it more,” she said.  

A large portion of the funding would bring an aging Union Station into the 21st Century, with the money helping to improve platforms and upgrade the ventilation system and concourse. 

“Chicago Union Station is the third busiest passenger rail station in America with more than 3.3 Amtrak riders and more than 30 million Metra riders annually,” said State Senator Dick Durbin.  

Additional trains could be added, including a high-speed service over to O’Hare and travel times to the likes of Detroit, cut by half an hour. 

Detroit was where Shanel Schultz was headed Thursday to see her family when she spoke to WGN News. She’d be thrilled, Schultz added, to cut even 30 minutes off the journey.

“It would be great. Even a half hour to spend with family,” she said. “In the end, it’s a half-hour less you’re traveling.”