U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the State of Illinois a $10.4 million grant from the fourth round of the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER IV) program. The TIGER grant will complete a $370 million funding package of 15 local projects in the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program. The projects include new track and signal systems that will ease freight, Amtrak, and Metra congestion, and support 3,300 jobs throughout the six-county Chicagoland area.
"The over $225 million in funding that Illinois has received to date through the federal TIGER grant program has been essential to maintaining safe, efficient transportation systems that connect workers with jobs and spur economic development," said Durbin. "Today's funding for the CREATE project is no exception. It will help ensure that Illinois' transportation system can meet the needs of businesses and residents by reducing congestion, improving travel times and support thousands of good-paying jobs in the Chicago region."
"Our partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and rail companies allows us to strengthen Illinois' position as a national transportation leader," Governor Quinn said. "These major multimodal investments will improve passenger and freight rail performance, increase safety and support thousands of jobs across our state."
The 15-project CREATE program funding package consists of: $211 million from Governor Quinn's Illinois Jobs Now! capital plan, $136 million from the Class I freight railroads, represented by the Association of American Railroads (AAR), $10.4 million in U.S. DOT Tiger IV grant funds, $12 million from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and $1 million from the City of Chicago. In addition, the state and AAR recently reached an agreement through which the freight railroads increased their overall commitment to CREATE by $155 million, bringing their total contribution up to $325 million.
"Today's TIGER grant award, with the Illinois Jobs Now! funds and private funding from the CREATE freight rail partners will greatly advance vital CREATE projects over the next several years," AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger said. "This public-private partnership is truly historic. When this package of 15 projects is complete, more than half of the CREATE program will have been finished. The freight railroads look forward to continuing to work with the state and the City of Chicago to complete the rest of this important program that already is improving freight and passenger rail flow in Chicago and also across the entire U.S. rail network."
Eight of the 15 projects are on the CREATE program's Western Avenue corridor. Five separate railroads -- Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Canadian National, CSX, Indiana Harbor Belt, and Union Pacific -- use tracks along this corridor, which also intersects the important CN Heritage Corridor, on which Amtrak's Chicago-St. Louis and Metra's Heritage Corridor trains to Joliet operate. Easing chokepoints on the tracks that cross the Heritage Corridor are expected to result in fewer delays for these passenger trains.
"Today's announcement highlights the tremendous spirit of cooperation that exists among all of the CREATE partners," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. "This package of projects will go a long way toward easing chronic freight and passenger rail congestion, potentially making our highways less crowded and reducing travel times for people commuting between their jobs and families."
The funding package will also fully pay for the ICC's highest priority grade separation construction project in the state at 25th Avenue and the Union Pacific Railroad in Melrose Park. Another five of the 15 projects are along the Beltway corridor used by all the Class I railroads in Chicago's western suburbs, and the East/West corridor that connects the Beltway to the Western Avenue corridor. The viaduct improvement program is the second phase of the City of Chicago's ongoing effort to improve sidewalks, roadways, and lighting on areas under railroad bridges in Chicago.
The CREATE program is a unique partnership of the State of Illinois, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the City of Chicago, Amtrak, Metra, and the Class I railroads. To date, 14 CREATE projects have been completed, reducing passenger and freight train delays by 33% and 28%, respectively, in the areas in which the projects have been completed. Another 12 are in construction now, with four more in final design. For more information on CREATE, please visit www.createprogram.org.