Monday, February 13, 2012

How the Englewood Flyover will increase rail capacity in Chicago

Written by  Luther S. Miller, Senior Consulting Editor

A critical location in the Chicago rail network for the flow of rail traffic is the Englewood Interlocking, the cause of numerous delays to Amtrak, Metra, and Norfolk Southern trains.

Metra, the lead agency for the design and construction, engaged TranSystems to provide design engineering services for CREATE project P1, known as the Englewood Flyover, to eliminate the at-grade crossing Here is TransSystems’ description of the project and its expected impact:

The Englewood Interlocking is elevated over 63rd and State Streets in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, where the Metra Rock Island District main line currently crosses three tracks of the Norfolk Southern’s Dearborn Division “Chicago Line” at grade. The NS main line, at this location, is also a major route for Amtrak intercity passenger trains between Chicago and points east and is part of the FRA designated HSR Corridor.

The project includes construction of the flyover structure and approach bridges, embankment retaining walls, relocated main tracks, temporary running tracks, and associated infrastructure improvements to support three new grade separated tracks to carry Metra’s Rock Island District commuter rail line over the four tracks of the NS (three existing and one proposed) and two future tracks for the Midwest high speed rail initiative.

Also included among many improvements are new bridges over I-90/94 (Dan Ryan Expressway) and the CTA’s Red Line, signal improvements and the removal of the Englewood crossing diamonds. The project will require the closure of two city viaducts at 60th and 66th Streets, where bridges presently supporting traffic on the Metra Rock Island District line will be removed and the viaducts will be filled in.

The project is bounded roughly by 57th Place on the north and 69th Street on the south, is 7,200 feet in length, and is located entirely within the city limits of Chicago. Construction of the structure is expected to begin in 2012.

This project will eliminate conflicts between 78 Metra Rock Island District trains and approximately 60 freight and Amtrak trains that presently cross at-grade through the Englewood interlocking each day. Both Metra and Amtrak have plans to reroute substantial numbers of additional passenger trains through the Englewood Interlocking.

Completion of several other CREATE component projects could increase the current passenger train volumes at this location by almost 50% in the near future. Delays to NS intermodal trains attempting to operate through the Englewood Interlocking today frequently have a direct impact on Amtrak intercity trains operating over the same tracks. At this location, Metra riders experience more than 7,500 annual passenger hours of delay, which will be relieved. By eliminating many of these delays, the project will reduce locomotive and vehicle engine idling, cutting emissions and improving air quality, leading to continued growth of the regional economy. The flyover will also have a significant impact nationally and internationally by improving freight movement from California to New York as well as from Canada to Mexico.