Chicago area procures $100 million in TIGER grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation finalized a $100 grant agreement for the CREATE (Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency) program to begin work on those projects to help reduce rail bottlenecks in the Chicago region, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

In February, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the availability of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for these projects, but it wasn’t until July 22 that the terms were finalized.

LaHood said freight congestion mitigation projects include new traffic control systems, track and bridge work, a highway-rail grade separation and safety improvements on various rail viaducts, according to the FHWA.

“We are using Recovery Act dollars to create jobs for breaking up freight bottlenecks that will help get our economy moving,” LaHood said in a written statement. “These projects are vital building blocks in America’s continuing economic recovery.”

The $100 million grant is from the U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) discretionary program, included in the Recovery Act, to promote innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects that provide significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, region or the nation.

“We are helping to promote trade and commerce in the Chicago region,” Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said in a press announcement. “Improving mobility for goods and people will lead to a quicker recovery and overall stronger economy.”

About 25 percent of rail traffic in the United States travels through the Chicago region, in some instances taking longer to transit the city than the time it took to reach it from the east or west coasts. The CREATE program focuses on alleviating major bottlenecks along freight and passenger rail corridors. The most important improvements within the program are the grade separations and the rail-to-rail connections, which will benefit highway users and permit more seamless connections between railroads.

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“CREATE’s success is America’s success,” said Federal Rail Administration (FRA) Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “By improving the flow of freight and people, rail traffic will move more safely and efficiently.”

The five projects funded by the TIGER grant are the following:

•Construction of the Union Pacific Third Mainline-Proviso Yard.

•Installation of a traffic control system at La Grange/Broadview.

•Signalization of Blue Island Yard Running Tracks.

•Construction of a highway-rail grade separation structure at Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Company and CSX Transportation, Inc. grade crossing at 71st Street.

•Fourteen roadway/sidewalk/curb projects as part of the Viaduct Improvement Program to enhance safety and security for motorists and pedestrians.

Overall, the CREATE program includes more than 46 rail and 25 highway-rail grade separation projects that involve restructuring, modernizing and expanding freight and passenger rail and constructing new highway-rail grade separations in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Mendez added that the program supports President Obama’s National Export Initiative to double the nation’s exports in five years.