Congressman Lipinski Announces that Key Project to Untangle Chicago Rails is 'Ready to Go' (March 5, 2010)

Linchpin CREATE Project Will Create Jobs, Boost Economy, Slash Metra Delays, Enable High-Speed Rail

On Friday, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) was joined by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (Minn.), Mayor Richard M. Daley, Governor Pat Quinn, Senator Richard J. Durbin, IDOT Secretary Gary Hannig and numerous other government, business, and labor leaders to announce groundbreaking on the Englewood Flyover is now expected to begin this year thanks to $133 million in new federal funding.

"With the construction of the linchpin Englewood Flyover starting this year, the CREATE rail modernization program continues to make great progress from where we began when I secured the first $100 million for it in 2005," Congressman Lipinski said. "This project will create jobs, bolster the economy, cut Metra and Amtrak delays, improve freight efficiency, and enable Midwest high-speed rail. With the $133 million in federal money announced last month, everything is in place and we are ready to go. This is another milestone for CREATE, and a great boost for Chicagoland, the state of Illinois, and the nation. And most importantly in these tough economic times, today's announcement is a real shot in the arm for our local economy. I'm looking forward to working with Chairman Oberstar, Mayor Daley, Governor Quinn, Senator Durbin and all the other leaders who joined me today to continue our success in moving CREATE forward."

The Englewood Flyover will create an estimated 1,450 jobs and make high-speed rail possible by building a bridge to carry the Metra Rock Island District line over the Norfolk Southern/Amtrak tracks at 63rd Street in Chicago. In addition, it will eliminate 7,500 annual passenger hours of delay for riders on the Rock Island line and is the critical first step toward future CREATE projects that will eliminate 32,000 annual passenger hours of delay for riders on Metra's Southwest Service line. The only Chicago-area member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Congressman Lipinski is the leading advocate for CREATE, which is designed to untangle the Chicago region's rail and transportation system.

"This visit has been very useful, because we can see how funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are being put to work," said Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.), Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. "This project, which recently received a $133 million High-Speed Rail Grant from the Department of Transportation, will go a long way toward eliminating delays, reducing locomotive engine idling, cutting emissions, and improving air quality. Funding this key CREATE project will benefit Metra commuters, freight railroads and rail passengers between Chicago and Detroit by eliminating the existing conflict between traffic at this grade crossing daily.  This project also lays a critical foundation for future efforts to bring high-speed rail to the Midwest and for other CREATE rail modernization projects to move forward. Congressman Lipinski has been a true champion of the CREATE program, and I look forward to continuing to work with him on this and other transportation projects important to the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois."

Currently, delays on the Rock Island line occur when Metra trains are forced to wait for freight and Amtrak trains to cross the Rock Island tracks. Approximately 78 Rock Island trains, 14 Amtrak trains, and 46 Norfolk Southern trains pass through this location each day.

Completing the Englewood Flyover will make it possible to address further chokepoints through CREATE and eventually eliminate 32,000 annual passenger hours of delay on Metra's Southwest Service line. Conflicts between and among Southwest Service trains, 90 daily freight trains belonging to four railroads, and Amtrak trains currently produce long delays.

Every day, roughly 1,200 trains pass through the Chicago region, supporting more than 38,000 jobs. But over the next 20 years, demand for freight rail service in Chicago is expected to nearly double. If rail capacity and infrastructure issues are not addressed, studies show the Chicago region will miss out on 17,000 additional jobs and $2 billion in annual economic production. CREATE will ensure that the Chicago region is prepared to handle future increases in rail traffic.

CREATE will reduce delays and congestion with track, switch, and signal upgrades and by constructing overpasses and underpasses to end conflicts at both rail-rail and highway-rail crossings. CREATE is a first-of-its-kind partnership, bringing together the federal government, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Metra, and the Association of American Railroads. Ten CREATE projects have already been completed.

"CREATE will create jobs, shorten commutes, reduce shipping times, lower fuel usage and pollution, enhance safety, and ensure Chicago remains the nation's transportation hub for decades to come," Congressman Lipinski said. "It's essential that we act now to implement CREATE to grow our region's economy. As the Englewood Flyover shows, that is precisely what we are doing."

(March 5, 2010)