CREATE backers seek $160-million grant

RELATED TOPICS: CHICAGO | MIDWEST | INFRASTRUCTURE | POLITICS
Trains Industry Newsletter
Get a weekly roundup of the industry news you need.
By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine. View our privacy policy.
CHICAGO — The public and private partners behind the CREATE Program to clear Chicago rail congestion have applied for $160 million in federal funding to eliminate what they call one of the “most complex and congested segments of railroad in North America.”

The CREATE Partners submitted an Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation seeking funds to reconfigure the notoriously clogged 75th Street Corridor and a related project known as the Argo Connections.

The 75th Street Corridor is the primary east-west route through the Chicago Terminal and the only one with the potential to add significant capacity, CREATE officials say. As many as 90 freight trains, 30 Metra commuter rail trains and two Amtrak trains use the Corridor each day. Among the improvements, a rail flyover would be built and three rail-to-rail crossings would be eliminated, according to the application.

“The necessary train movements through these junctions must currently cross paths, often allowing only a single train to pass at any given time,” the CREATE application said. “The crossings thus become chokepoints causing delays that have negative consequences throughout the entire region and country.”

The 75th Street project comprises a network of four closely related individual segments: Forest Hill Flyover, 71st Street Grade Separation, Belt Junction and 80th Street Junction replacement, and Metra Rock Island Connection. This grant request will fully fund the flyover and grade separation for final design, utility relocation, and construction. This grant request will also add the capacity at Argo needed to feed additional traffic to the East-West Corridor.

The infrastructure improvements will double corridor capacity, reducing travel time and expand railroad capacity through the Chicago terminal, thus providing benefits on a national scale, CREATE officials say.

“If in fact the goal of this program is to solve national and regional problems, when you talk about the freight industry, Chicago’s the problem (and ) 75th St. is the biggest Chicago problem,” Randy Blankenhorn, Illinois Department of Transportation secretary, tells Trains News Wire.

The 75th Street Corridor handles almost 2 million freight cars annually. Upon completion of the project, the corridor could accommodate more than 4 million freight cars annually, CREATE officials say. These movements are slowed by current conflict points and capacity limitations, in particular at the Belt Junction chokepoint where all rail traffic must share two tracks.

The project will double capacity by reconfiguring the Belt Railway mainline tracks, laying new track, and creating flyover tracks at three key locations, according to CREATE.

The total budget for the 75th Street Corridor project is $473.7 million, and federal funding will comprise 35 percent of the budget. Several Class I railroads and Amtrak have committed $111.4 million in private funding. An additional $202.4 million has been committed from non-federal sources, including $20 million from Metra, according to CREATE.

According to CREATE, this application marks a shift in shared investment between public and private partners. A 2015 effort to apply for funding for the project “was unsuccessful due to insufficient private sector support at that time,” CREATE said.

Blankenhorn said further negotiations with the railroads proved successful, along with an additional $75-million commitment from Cook County.

“The railroads came up with a number we could all live with,” Blankenhorn said. “This is a very well-rounded proposal with a fair share of everybody’s responsibility.”

Blankenhorn and U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., who was an early advocate for CREATE, were optimistic that the Department of Transportation would approve the grant.

Lipinski was among a group of Congress members who met Thursday with David James “DJ” Gribbin, President Donald Trump’s special assistant for infrastructure policy, and presented him with a letter of support for the CREATE application from the Illinois Congressional delegation.

“I’d say if the administration goes by the announced criteria, this project has a good chance,” Lipinski tells Trains News Wire. “They are looking to leverage private dollars, and this certainly does that.”
Leave a Comment
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of TrainsMag.com are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Please keep your feedback on-topic and respectful. Trains staffers reserve the right to edit or delete any comments.
0 COMMENTS
Winter on the Rails

Winter on the Rails

Railroading to the arctic.

SEE INSIDE THIS ISSUE

Learn more about the stories and photos in this months issue

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy
Subscribe Up To 54% off the newsstand price!
Subscribe To Trains Mag Today
+