Lipinski Opens 71st Street Underpass in Bridgeview, Calls for Increased Investment in Grade Separations

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) was joined by state, local, and railroad industry officials today to open the 71st Street underpass in Bridgeview, a $30 million project that created almost 300 construction jobs and will reduce travel times, greatly enhance the quality of life for residents, and make the area more attractive for job growth. As the state’s senior member on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and the leading advocate for the CREATE rail improvement program, the congressman also touted the need for an increased commitment in grade separation projects, such as the 71st Street underpass, to deliver even more benefits to the public and the region as a whole.  

“Since I secured federal funding for this project and helped to break ground more than two years ago, I have been asked many, many times when 71st Street will be finished. I am proud to say it is here and it’s a beautiful sight to see,” Rep. Lipinski said. “This project, by separating the road from the rails, means less time stuck in traffic, improved safety, healthier air, and increased efficiency in moving goods. The 71st Street underpass is exactly what CREATE is all about — creating jobs, improving transportation and making sure all of Northeastern Illinois stays a great place to live and work.”

Rep. Lipinski led the effort in Congress to support the state’s federal TIGER grant application that yielded $100 million for CREATE, including $20 million for the 71st Street underpass. Before the underpass was built, as many as 80 freight trains on the CSX and Indiana Harbor Belt railroads crossed 71st Street a day, resulting in congestion and long delays, especially after events at nearby Toyota Park. The project will relieve an estimated 31 hours of combined delays motorists endured each day at the crossing.

CREATE, which stands for the Chicago Region Environmental & Transportation Efficiency Program, is a package of 70 projects to make the region’s rail system more efficient. In 2005, Rep. Lipinski secured the first $100 million for the program, which is funded through contributions from federal, state, and local governments, as well as the freight and commuter railroads. While most of the 70 projects in CREATE up to now have focused on rail-specific improvements, the grade separations — the overpasses and underpasses — provide the greatest benefits to the public. But of the 25 grade separation projects in CREATE, the 71st Street overpass is only the third to be completed. Three more are under construction, seven have some funding and 12 have no funding whatsoever.

“It will be clear to anyone who lives and drives in Bridgeview after today that the advantages to doing more of these critical grade separations are substantial,” Rep. Lipinski said. “As we celebrate the completion of the 71st Street underpass, I am hopeful that there will be a greater commitment to these projects that do so much for our communities.”