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CREATE 75th Street CIP breaks ground

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, Editor, Railway Track & Structures; and Engineering Editor, Railway Age
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Left to right: AAR President and CEO Ed Hamberger, Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle, USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Photo by Mark Llanuza.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Oct. 1 for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program’s 75th Street Corridor Improvements Project (75th St. CIP), at Forest Hill Junction.

The $474 million project, the largest in the CREATE Program, will eliminate a  chokepoint in Chicago, which as the busiest U.S. metropolitan rail hub hosts nearly 500 freight trains and 760 passenger trains per day. The CREATE Program estimates that when the project is completed in 2025, it will eliminate 32,000 annual passenger hours of delay from rail travel in the region.

The project was awarded the largest single Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant, more than $132 million, during the latest round of funding. In addition to the INFRA grant, freight railroads are contributing $116 million, Illinois Department of Transportation is contributing $111 million, Cook County is contributing $78 million, Metra is contributing $23 million, Chicago Department of Transportation is contributing $9 million and Amtrak is contributing $5 million.

“The CREATE Program is grounded in a simple idea: Solutions to big [problems] only happen when everyone is at the table,” said Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. “We are all committed to improving service for Chicago rail commuters and freight customers nationwide, and this project dramatically moves the ball forward by untangling one of the most congested points in the U.S. rail network. America’s railroads are here for the long haul as we continue to advance rail in Chicago.”

The INFRA grant award will be applied toward five individual projects, including construction of the Argo Connection; design and construction of a grade separation at 71st Street; design and construction of a freight flyover; design of a commuter/freight flyover and design for a realignment for freight tracks, as well as the addition of a commuter track.

The Argo Connection, also known as B9, will build additional track and signals allowing for increased train speeds. It is scheduled to begin next year. Design and construction of the other four projects will follow.

Forest Hill Junction. Locomotive lineup arranged by CSX. Mark Llanuza photo.

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