Monday, March 08, 2010

Chicago bridge prelude to high-speed rail

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A $133-million federal stimulus project to build a railroad "flyover" at the Metra, Amtrak and freight tracks in Englewood on Chicago's south side will untie a knot in the nation's rail system and make way for high-speed rail, government and rail officials said Friday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

"The single biggest source of delays in the Midwest is right here at the Englewood crossing," said Amtrak chair Thomas Carper, at an announcement at the project site at 63rd Street. "This project is going to fix that. That's how important this is."

The project will create a railroad bridge to carry the north-south Metra Rock Island District line over the east-west Norfolk Southern/Amtrak tracks at 63rd St., near the Dan Ryan Expy. Ground will be broken on the project later this year, and it will be completed by 2012, said U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Chicago), who has promoted the project as part of the Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program.

The project is expected to create 1,450 jobs, improve traffic on the Metra Rock Island line and cut Amtrak and freight delays. The triple-tracked bridge will carry Metra operations over all four tracks of the Norfolk Southern, and possibly a fifth track for a high-speed intercity passenger rail connection to points east and/or south. The flyover is also a first step toward future CREATE projects that would cut delays on Metra's Southwest Service line, according to Lipinski.

The crossing sees 78 Metra trains, 46 freight trains and 14 Amtrak trains daily. "With all that traffic, it is unavoidable that we have conflicts and delays," Lipinski said.

The announcement also was attended by Mayor Daley, Gov. Quinn, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and U.S. Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chair of the House Transportation Committee.

Oberstar said the current track intersection is "the very symbol of gridlock and congestion."

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