June 20, 2012

Illinois receives fed funds for 15 local projects

The State of Illinois was awarded a $10.4 million federal grant to fund local projects including, new track and signal systems that will ease freight and passenger rail congestion.

The funding, from the fourth round of the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER IV) program, will complete a $370 million funding package of 15 local projects in the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program.

The projects include new track and signal systems that will ease freight, Amtrak, and Metra congestion, and support 3,300 jobs throughout the six-county Chicagoland area.

The 15-project CREATE program funding package consists of: $211 million from Governor Pat Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital plan, $136 million from the Class I freight railroads, represented by the Association of American Railroads, $10.4 million in U.S. DOT Tiger IV grant funds, $12 million from the Illinois Commerce Commission and $1 million from the City of Chicago. In addition, the state and AAR recently reached an agreement through which the freight railroads increased their overall commitment to CREATE by $155 million, bringing their total contribution up to $325 million.

Eight of the 15 projects are on the CREATE program’s Western Avenue corridor. Five separate railroads — Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Canadian National, CSX, Indiana Harbor Belt, and Union Pacific — use tracks along this corridor, which also intersects the important CN Heritage Corridor, on which Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis and Metra’s Heritage Corridor trains to Joliet operate. Easing chokepoints on the tracks that cross the Heritage Corridor are expected to result in fewer delays for these passenger trains.

The funding package will also fully pay for the ICC’s highest priority grade separation construction project in the state at 25th Avenue and the Union Pacific Railroad in Melrose Park. Another five of the 15 projects are along the Beltway corridor used by all the Class I railroads in Chicago’s western suburbs, and the East/West corridor that connects the Beltway to the Western Avenue corridor. The viaduct improvement program is the second phase of the City of Chicago’s ongoing effort to improve sidewalks, roadways, and lighting on areas under railroad bridges in Chicago.

The CREATE program is a unique partnership of the State of Illinois, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the City of Chicago, Amtrak, Metra, and the Class I railroads. To date, 14 CREATE projects have been completed, reducing passenger and freight train delays by 33% and 28%, respectively, in the areas in which the projects have been completed. Another 12 are in construction now, with four more in final design. For more information on CREATE, please visit www.createprogram.org.

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