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Project to ease Chicago train traffic starts

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Helping freight trains move quicker and reducing the time motorists spend waiting for trains to pass are goals of a $26-million federally funded project announced Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Plans were unveiled to add a third main rail line over about three miles in Blue Island and Alsip, Ill., easing congestion in the busy south suburban corridor.

Local, state and railroad
officials talked about improvements at a groundbreaking ceremony at tracks
south of Wireton Road in Blue Island.

Work will start soon, said
William Thompson, program manager for the Chicago Region Environmental and
Transportation Efficiency Program.

The program, a major effort
to ease rail congestion in the Chicago area, has completed 43 of 78 rail and
highway projects planned throughout northeastern Illinois.

About 1,200 freight trains
travel through Chicago every day, Thompson said. Of those, about 160 run
through Blue Island, Mayor Donald Peloquin said.

The first part of the work
is on the railroad bridge over 127th Street, Thompson said. The bridge is
already wide enough for a third line, he said. The new third will run from
Francisco Avenue northwest to about 123rd Street, Thompson said. The new line
will be linked to an existing third line, east of Francisco Avenue, for about
six miles in total, Blue Island Peloquin said.

He compared the work to
adding a lane to a highway, with the third line allowing "through
trains" to roll through the area without having to slow or stop, as is now
often the case.

"Now, those trains
have to stop two or three times to get a free track. With the third line, they
won’t have to stop," Peloquin said.

A new signal system will
also be installed, helping speed trains along, he said.

Peloquin, whose city has
123 grade crossings, hopes more efficient freight train traffic could improve
area truck traffic since a third rail line means trains won’t be delayed as
often as before.

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