Union Pacific (UP) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are making a significant investment in Chicago's Metra West Line. Each will invest $45 million for the construction of a new third mainline track on the line from River Forest to Melrose Park and then from West Chicago to Geneva.
"Today, we are investing in jobs that will help solidify Illinois' status as the premier rail center of the nation," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said. "This final piece of the West Line improvement program will enhance commuter and freight travel on one of our state's busiest rail lines. Building world-class infrastructure is vital to a healthy economy and today's investment will help get us there."
The West Line improvements are designed to ensure smoother traffic flow and reduce conflicts between the passenger and freight trains that share the line. Earlier projects completed by Metra and UP modernized the signal system and added crossovers to make freight movement more efficient. A third phase on the West Line, improving the Lombard and Wheaton Metra stations, will be finished in 2015. The West Line third track construction is the final step that will allow the 59 Metra trains and 70 freight trains that use the line each day to operate at the same time, a critical step to improving the line's reliability and efficiency.
The announcement was made during a celebration to mark the completion of a Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) rail project that included the construction of a rail overpass, the rehabilitation of two passenger stations and the addition of pedestrian tunnels in Bellwood and Berkeley and signal and track improvements along the UP/Metra West Line. The project created and supported 1,000 jobs and was funded primarily through a $52-million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, a $27 million commitment from UP and other freight railroad partners, other federal funding of $3 million and a $615,000 investment by the state of Illinois.
"Our nation's system of bridges, rail and roads is the strength of the nation, tying us together and giving us access to the world," said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). "Chicago remains the busiest rail hub in the United States, with more than 1,000 trains passing through the region every day. Protecting and investing in our nation's infrastructure and specifically in Illinois' transportation network, is one of my top priorities."
"This is a new day for Metra, one in which we want to ensure that every project we execute puts commuters first," Metra Chairman Martin Oberman said. "We are confident the West Line improvements will greatly improve the commuter experience."