Posts Tagged ‘Project CREATE’

Federal Grant to Help Rebuild Chicago Junction

June 13, 2019

A busy and often congested Chicago railroad junction used by Amtrak will get an upgrade with the help of federal funding.

The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded a $19.2 million CRISI grant to the Chicago Region Environment and Transportation Efficiency program to reconfigure Dolton Junction interlocking in Dolton and Riverdale, Illinois.
The interlocking is used by more than 100 freight and passenger trains of CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National, Union Pacific and the Indiana Harbor Belt.

The work will involve upgrading and reconfiguring the connections, including the replacement of a NS connection between the CSX and IHB lines.

A third mainline will be built to provide direct access from CSX and Barr Yard to the UP mainline.

Crossovers will be built between two IHB mainlines, the connection between IHB and UP will be upgraded and remote control will be installed to automate Dolton Tower.

The project extends from 136th Place in Riverdale on the north to Monroe Street in Dolton on the south, and from Eggleston Avenue on the west to Center Street on the east.

Amtrak trains using the junction include the Cardinal and the soon to be discontinued Hoosier State.

CREATE said the work once completed will raise freight train speeds on multiple routes from 15 mph to 30 mph.

That will mean less potential for Amtrak trains to be delayed passing through the interlocking.

Lipinski to Head House Rail Subcommittee

January 28, 2019

A Chicago congressman has been named the chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Dan Lipinski represents a district that includes parts of the city of Chicago and some Chicago suburbs.

A news release from Lipinski’s office said he was named to the chairman’s post based on his experience in and knowledge of rail, pipeline and hazmat safety; freight-, commuter- and passenger-rail issues and regulation; and the impact rail and pipelines have on local communities.

The release noted that Lipinski’s district include not only railroads but also several underground pipelines.

“As chair, I will continue the work I have done to advance policies that prioritize rail and pipeline safety, a better environment, more jobs and better public transit,” Lipinski said.

Lipinski also said he will continue to pursue funding for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program, a public-private partnership seeking to ease congestion on Chicago railroads.

Grant to Boost Chicago Railroad Projects

June 8, 2018

A $132 million grant to the Illinois Department of Transportation will enable the completion of three components of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program’s 75th Street corridor improvement project.

In a news release, U.S. DOT said the projects will improve rail traffic flow at several high-priority chokepoints.

Among the improvements that are being planned are:

• The Forest Hill flyover, consisting of a new north-south flyover structure that will eliminate conflicts between north-south and east-west train movements at the Forest Hill Junction.

• The 71st Street grade separation that will separate the Western Avenue rail corridor from 71st street.

• The Argo and Canal junction improvements, which will address the 87th Street chokepoint and increase capacity at Argo yard.

Funding for the projects will include $106.3 million from Class 1 railroads, or about 25 percent, of the total project costs.

DOT said the railroads have agreed to maintain the tracks to be improved at no cost to the project’s public partners.

Federal funding is being provided through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program.

CREATE was launched in 2003 and involves 70 projects to separate freight and passenger trains at six key junctions, eliminating about two dozen crossings, and increasing rail capacity, speed and reliability in the Chicago area.

The program is managed through a public-private partnership among Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads, BNSF, Belt Railway of Chicago, the Chicago and Illinois departments of transportation, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, CSX, Indiana Harbor Belt, Metra, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.

Boardman Decries ‘Zero’ Funding of Rail Transportation Infrastructure Projects

October 27, 2015

Amtrak President Joe Boardman has come face to face with a reality that all of his predecessors have faced. Funding for Amtrak is always year to year and that makes long-term planning difficult.

As if that isn’t bad enough, Boardman said the nation faces billions of dollars in infrastructure repairs but has made no progress toward addressing those.

Chief among those infrastructure needs is a plan to resolve railroad congestion in Chicago that delays Amtrak and freight trains alike.

Boardman appeared on Monday on a panel at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Monday to stump for a plan that Amtrak presented recently to fund the $2.6 billion Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program.

Boardman lamented that Amtrak’s annual funding struggles has made multi-year projects exceedingly difficult to plan and carry out.

Also appearing on the panel were Amtrak board member Thomas Carper, former U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn ( R-New York) and Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center President Howard Lerner.

The panel noted that 29 CREATE projects have been built at a cost of $1 billion.

Boardman said it has been a long time since national leaders approved major projects for the common good.

He said the Chicago projects remain unfunded along with the Gateway project to rebuild century-old infrastructure and increase capacity between New York City and New Jersey.

Boardman said at stake is the day-in, day-out reliability of the rail network as well as the mobility needs of students, residents of remote areas and the physically disadvantaged.

As an example of why operation of the rail system needs to be more reliable, Boardman said that the on-time performance of state-supported Amtrak trains is around 55 percent while that of long-distance trains is below 50 percent.

Carper noted that completion of the Englewood Flyover in Chicago eliminated about six train delays per hour at the busiest times.

That $130 million project elevated Metra’s Rock Island District over the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. The latter is used by 14 Amtrak trains per day.

Carper said that United Parcel Service loses $1 million for every minute of delay to its shipments and that $7 to $9 billion of the nation’s annual gross domestic product is dependent on the flow of freight through Chicago.

Lerner said the next priorities for Chicago should be the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project and the Grand Crossing Project.

He also said that Amtrak, Metra and freight railroads need to better coordinate dispatching and that the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program must be reformed to make its loans easier to obtain.

However, funding for the rest of CREATE projects as well as the $20 billion Gateway project has yet to be approved.

Lerner said that there are no substitutes for a long-term federal funding program for passenger rail.

Upgrades Being Made to Midwest Routes

October 20, 2011

An Amtrak "Wolverine Service" train rolls into Jackson, Mich., on Oct. 8, 2011. The Michigan Department of Transportation has received a federal grant for track work that will cut the running times of Amtrak trains in the state. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

The U.S. Department recently announced funding of two projects that will affect Amtrak service in the Midwest. A groundbreaking was held in Chicago for construction of the $133 million Englewood flyover.

The project will separate tracks of the former Pennsylvania Railroad and former Rock Island Railroad that cross at grade in the Englewood neighborhood. The former PRR tracks, now owned by Norfolk Southern, are used by Amtrak’s Michigan trains as well as the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited and the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Englewood has long been a source of delay for Amtrak trains forced to wait until Metra commuter trains on the ex-Rock Island line clear the crossing.

The federal government granted $126 million to the project, which is part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program to reduce rail congestion. The Englewood crossing handles 78 Metra trains on weekdays along with 60 Amtrak and freight trains.

U.S. DOT also announced that it has granted $196.5 million to the Michigan Department of Transportation for track and signal improvements between Detroit and Kalamazoo.  The improvements will allow for speeds up to 110 mph over portions of the routes of Amtrak’s Wolverine and Blue Water services, resulting in a 30 minute reduction in travel time between endpoint destinations.  

The Blue Water is a daily roundtrip between Chicago and Port Huron via Flint and East Lansing while the Wolverine service consists of three daily roundtrips between Chicago and Pontiac (Detroit) via Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson, Ann Arbor and Dearborn.

Work on the 135-mile segment between Detroit and Kalamazoo will involve preliminary engineering, final design and construction. The project includes new, continuously welded rail and ties, fiber optic lines and infrastructure to support a positive train control system, rebuilding 180 highway-rail grade crossings, and gates and flashers at 65 private highway-rail grade crossings.  Construction is expected to begin in late spring 2012.

In addition, MDOT expected to receive a $150 million U.S. DOT grant later this year to purchase the Detroit-Kalamazoo track after grant conditions are met. The track is now owned by Norfolk Southern. Amtrak owns the route between Kalamazoo and Porter, Ind.