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Thursday, August 27, 2009

State grant application includes $52 million for yard expansion

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With the money already in place to build what likely will be two overpasses and one underpass at three major rail crossings in Galesburg, Ill., there is more good news, The Register-Mail reports. The state has applied for about $550 million of federal stimulus money, $52 million for what Illinois is calling its "Galesburg congestion relief project." 

State Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, said the money in Galesburg is for a third main track in the BNSF's classification yard here, as well as sidings, or "storage tracks," that allow freight trains that are being made up to be moved aside to allow other traffic through.

"The third main is very important to the long-range plan of continuing to position the Galesburg railyard to be the best place" for BNSF to expand one of its railyards.

City Manager Dane Bragg said this morning, "I see this as just one more opportunity to position Galesburg for growth with the BNSF. That's something we've been working on with BNSF and Representative Moffitt's office for about a year."

Moffitt has brought state and federal officials here to make Galesburg's case for rail money, ranging from state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, chairman of the House Committee on Railroad Industry in 2007, to Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig in May of this year and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in April.

George Weber, bureau chief for railroads at the Illinois Department of Transportation, told the Journal of Commerce online that the grant request was part of the first-round applications by states that were due to federal authorities by midnight last Monday. Those will lead to initial awards this fall from an $8-billion funding pool targeted for high-speed rail projects.

Moffitt said the third main line would run parallel to the existing lines, probably to the edge of town.

"This would help reduce congestion, especially when freight trains are coming in and passenger trains are coming in," Moffitt said. "It gives them more capacity to pull the freight of the side. It would improve on-time (passenger) performance."

"Looking ahead, we anticipate more and more rail traffic, and that's both freight and passenger rail traffic," he said, "which means crossings like East Main Street will be busier.

 That is one more reason the grade separations, which would probably be an underpass on East Main Street, are important," Moffitt said, although he cautioned, "I would not consider anything on the East Main project final. That's part of the reason it will be the last one. It's more difficult to build an underpass than an overpass, so East Main is more complex, assuming it stays an underpass."

The West Main Street overpass is scheduled to be built first, with work expected to begin in the spring of 2010. Another overpass, which will carry traffic over the Seminary Street crossing to Kellogg Street, will be built when the West Main Street bridge is completed.

Moffitt said the additional sidings at the railyard are important because it increases the capacity at the yard. The overpasses and underpasses, quiet zones - which will allow BNSF to close a number of crossings - as well as the projects at the railyard are, Moffitt said, "all part of the total vision of enhancing the Galesburg railyard, which means more jobs."

Moffitt said anything that improves the railyard also improves Galesburg's capacity to attract distribution firms, because of the number of trains that can carry goods in and out of the city.

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