Congressman Makes 65th and Harlem Rail Underpass a Top Priority (May 27, 2014)
Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) is making it a top priority to secure funding for a railroad grade separation at 65th Street and Harlem Avenue. The project – either an underpass or overpass that would eliminate train blockage of 65th Street – would have a significant positive impact on the surrounding area, specifically the southwest side of Chicago, Bedford Park, and Summit. With the possibility this year of a new federal road construction bill and a state capital construction bill, there are new opportunities to move the project forward.
“Back in 2003, the CREATE program was announced with great fanfare at a press conference at 63rd and Harlem,” said Rep. Lipinski. “This program will invest billions to increase the efficiency of our region's passenger and freight rail, and enhance the quality of life for residents. A significant part of this quality of life enhancement is the construction of two dozen grade separations. These are underpasses or overpasses that move roads over or under rail lines. One of these has been slated for 63rd and Harlem. But while CREATE has moved forward over the years, starting with $100 million that I was able to secure for it, progress on the grade separations has lagged, largely because of the cost.”
While 63rd Street was the location originally chosen for the grade separation, Congressman Lipinski now believes if the engineering is feasible, 65th Street would be a better choice. 65th is a four lane road on a largely commercial street and 63rd is a two lane road on a largely residential street. Hundreds of trucks every day travel to and from businesses in the Clearing Industrial District and a grade separation on 63rd would bring many of those trucks up residential side streets to 63rd.
Over the years, Lipinski has spoken with many local residents, elected officials, businesses, and employees about this project and what it would mean for the area. The benefits would include fewer delays getting to work, school, church, or shopping. Also, less gas wasted waiting for a train to pass, increased safety, economic development, and the potential for more jobs in the area.
“There is new hope for getting this project going this year,” stated Rep. Lipinski. “Both the federal government and the state of Illinois may be passing new bills that will help ease the congestion on our roads. The most recent federal bill to fund highway and transit projects expires at the end of September. I am Illinois' most senior member on the House Transportation Committee and we will soon be working on a new bill. I’ll be pushing to pass a robust, long-term bill that will provide federal support for projects that would alleviate problems like the one many of us face every day at Harlem Avenue.”
In addition, Lipinski is hopeful that Illinois will pass a new capital bill that would provide funding for all types of construction projects including road construction. The last capital bill passed in Springfield is winding down and a new one may be done this year. He has met with Governor Quinn to tell him about the need for the Clearing grade separation, and he has worked with all the local state legislators to build support for this project. The estimated cost of the entire grade separation project is about $95 million dollars.