The Greater Sterling Area is served by an expansive transportation network that includes five interstates and nine Class I and II Railroads. Sterling is home to Whiteside County Airport, primed and ready for Aviation and MRO investment, and is less than 100 miles from four regional airports, and within 120 miles of two major international airports – Chicago O’Hare and Chicago Midway.



Whiteside County Airport (SQI)

Located four miles from Sterling, Illinois, Whiteside County Airport (SQI) is a general aviation airport offering convenient access for private jets. Whiteside County Airport’s main runway is 6,500-feet-long with a 3,900-foot-long crosswind runway. Fixed based operator Sauk Valley Aviationprovides aircraft charter and arranges aircraft storage, parking, fueling, sales, maintenance, and flight instruction.

Quad City International Airport (MLI)

The Quad City International Airport is 50 miles from Sterling, Illinois, and features a 8,500-foot-long runway. It is served by Delta, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Allegiant, and provides access to nine nonstop flights to hubs and destinations across the US.

Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD)

Chicago Rockford International Airport is a great alternative to Chicago-area airports at 66 miles from Sterling. Chicago Rockford has two runways (10,000 and 8,200-feet), is home to UPS’ largest regional parcel-sorting center, is a Foreign Trade Zone and port of entry for the US with same-day customs clearance. The cost of doing business at Chicago Rockford International Airport is one-third that of O’Hare International.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

O’Hare International Airport is 111 miles from Sterling and is one of the world’s busiest airports. O’Hare offers both domestic and international flights and serves as a hub for freight, express, and mail cargo.

Additional Air Access within Close Proximity:

Major International Airports:

  • Chicago Midway International Airport (118 miles)

Regional Airports:

  • General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport – Peroia, IL (85 miles)
  • Dubuque Regional Airport – Dubuque, IA (92 miles)

Municipal & General Aviation Airports:

  • Clinton Municipal Airport (Clinton, IA)
  • Davenport Municipal Airport (Davenport, IA)
  • Dixon Municipal – Charles R. Walgreen Field (Dixon, IL)
  • Ogle County Airport (Oregon, IL)
  • Rochelle Municipal Airport (Rochelle, IL)
  • Illinois Valley Regional Airport (Peru, IL)
  • DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport (DeKalb, IL)


Interstate 88

An east/west expressway to Chicago.

East/west I-88 connects Sterling, Illinois, directly to I-39, I-80, and I-74 – the region’s busiest interstates. Two transcontinental Interstates pass through our region (I-80 and I-90) connecting to New York and Boston in the east to San Francisco and Seattle in the west.

Proximity to Major Markets:

1-hour access to:

  • Quad Cities (Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa) (57 miles)
  • Rockford, Illinois (54 miles)

2-hour access to:

  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa (112 miles)
  • Chicago, Illinois (115 miles)
  • Dubuque, Iowa (88 miles)
  • Iowa City, Iowa (110 miles)
  • Madison, Wisconsin (106 miles)
  • Peoria, Illinois (86 miles)

Illinois Route 40 (north / south )

Direct north/south access from Sterling.

Illinois Route 40 has an 80,000-pound load limit for six-axle vehicles and is a Class 3 route to the north (two lanes; narrower shoulders) and a Class 2 route to the south (two lanes; improved shoulders). Sterling is less than 90 minutes from Peoria, Illinois, via south Illinois Route 40 and approximately three hours to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, via north Illinois Route 40.

Rail Access

Union Pacific Railroad

Union Pacific serves Sterling’s central industrial area with an average of 90 trains per day. The Sterling-area line is one of the strongest roadbed/track systems in the United States, with a continuously welded track between Chicago, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska, this line allows for speeds of more than 80 MPH.

Union Pacific connects Sterling directly to:

  • The West Coast
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • the Port of Clinton (Clinton, Iowa)
  • Union Pacific’s Global III Intermodal Terminal (GB3) in Rochelle, Illinois

In addition to Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s primary trans-continental tracks dissecting Whiteside County, the Area is also served by Norfolk SouthernCSX TransportationCanadian National, and three short line railroads.


Port of Chicago

The Port of Chicago is 190 acres in size and handles 3,000 feet of boat and barge berths. It offers over 330,000 square-feet of covered warehouse space for bulk, steel, and general cargoes, including 30,000 square feet (2,800 square meters) of climate-controlled space, and it has over 50 acres dedicated to dry bulk storage handling, including four storage domes (totaling 50,000 tons of storage capacity). The Port of Chicago controls Foreign Trade Zone No. 22.

The Port’s Iroquois Landing facility is situated at the southwest corner of Lake Michigan and the entrance of the Calumet River and connects to six of North America’s seven Class I railroads (BNSF, CN, CP, CSX, NS, and UP), the Belt Railway, the Indiana Harbor Belt, and several additional shortline railroads. Located on Interstate 90/94, trucks can easily connect to Interstates 80, 57, 55, and 65 within 10 miles of the facility.

Port Milwaukee (Wisconsin) is 150 miles (2.5 hours) from Sterling, Illinois, and is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan approximately 75 miles north of Chicago and is the sole Lake Michigan port approved to serve the Mississippi River inland waterway system with direct barge access. Port Milwaukee is directly accessed by Interstate 94/794 and is served by two Class I railroads: Union Pacific Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway.

Port Milwaukee is a grantee of Foreign Trade Zone No. 41, has a stiff leg derrick capable of lifting 440,000 pounds at a 52-foot radius, and has mobile crawler cranes capable of lifting up to 300 tons.

Port of Milwaukee

Port of St. Louis

The St. Louis regional port system is responsible for 8 percent of the 855 miles of the Mississippi River but carries one-third of the river’s total freight. It is located at the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers and supports 15 barge-transfer facilities for a total capacity of 150 barges a day – the highest level of capacity anywhere along the Mississippi River.

The Port of St. Louis has access to two Foreign Trade Zones and it operates year-round as the northernmost ice- and lock-free port on the Mississippi River. Located within 500 miles of one-third of the US population, the Port of St. Louis is served by six Class I railroads, seven interstates, and two international airports.