New Buffalo train project on track

The City of New Buffalo is still 60-miles from Chicago, but it’s about to get a lot closer—in terms of minutes.

Amtrak has plans to offer non-stop train service between the two cities that promises to cut travel time to about 50-minutes.

The Amtrak train that now makes the trip between New Buffalo and Chicago makes more than a dozen stops and takes about an hour and 25-minutes.

“If you can get to the city in less than an hour, sometimes it takes you longer than that just to go from Evanston to downtown Chicago, or from Sheridan Road to get to your parking spot,” said developer Jimmy Gierczyk.

Gierczyk was a key player in luring non-stop train service to New Buffalo. He is the one who promised to pay more than a million dollars to construct a new train station. Gierczyk is hoping that the new service will begin by June first.

“I look at it as, like a little Hamptons, it’s like a little Hamptons; it’s a great, great community. It’s close to Chicago, but far enough away to get away,” said Gierczyk.

The theory is that the easy commute will convince Chicagoans to adopt New Buffalo as their latest bedroom community, or suburb.

“I think it could, I think it could give us good quality people coming out of Illinois that want to work there and live in a smaller community like New Buffalo,” said New Buffalo City Councilman Jack Kennedy.

Apparently, other developers quickly became sold on the projects potential as well. Those developers quickly and collectively produced more condo units than they were able to sell.

“There is quite a few empty condos here that should be purchased and put on the tax rolls and help the rest of our citizens with our tax base,” said Councilman Kennedy. Kennedy feels a great project may simply be coming to fruition at a bad time. “The train, the condos, in conjunction, train gets here, condos built, boom, they got it going on. Well the condos are built, the train station hasn’t been built, so the condos aren’t selling that well,” said Kennedy. “Now when the train comes, let’s wait and see.”

Efforts to bring the new Amtrak service to town are running three to four years behind schedule. The current timetable means that the plan will be carried out well after the recession rolled into the station. “If this economy wasn’t so beat up right now, I would make the statement that I think you’d see over the next couple years, a 15-to-20 percent growth period,” said Gierczyk. The developer still believes the new rail service will lead to growth and he is anxious to see his theory put to the test.

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