Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by local and state officials to open the new 71st Street railroad underpass in Bridgeview, a $29.8 million project that will greatly reduce traffic delays and improve safety at this key automobile/rail intersection. Today's event is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to create jobs and build a 21st century infrastructure that will drive Illinois' economy forward.
"Nothing frees up traffic flow better than separating car and train traffic, and that's just what we've done here in Bridgeview," Governor Quinn said. "This project created jobs will make the key route safer and quicker for residents and businesses across the area."
The project included $20.3 million in funding from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program and $9.5 million from Governor Quinn's Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program. The work began in June 2011 and the project was one of five regional projects to receive federal and state funds as part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE) partnership.
"71st Street is a high traffic area and this project will help alleviate congestion during peak commute times," State Senator Steve Landek, who also serves as the mayor of Bridgeview, said. "Improvements like these ensure that Bridgeview remains a great place to live and work."
The grade separation of 71st Street and the IHB/CSX tracks just west of Harlem Avenue will alleviate congestion and improve safety on 71st Street, which sees 4,400 vehicles daily. This includes nearly 1,600 vehicles that use the road to enter and exit Toyota Park immediately east of the crossing. Because of the angle of the railroad tracks entering the nearby Bedford Park Yard, freight trains can only travel from 5 to 10 mph across 71st Street, a situation that previously resulted in lengthy delays for motorists.
"This project will not only help put people back to work, but it will also help alleviate outstanding safety concerns, improve congested traffic and make our roads safer for area commuters," State Representative Michael J. Zalewski (D-Riverside) said. "With this project, the Governor is demonstrating his understanding of the need for easier commutes and to improve the productivity of Illinois businesses that will benefit from less fatigued employees."
The CREATE Program is a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership to address freight, commuter and intercity passenger rail congestion in the Chicago area. The CREATE partners include the Illinois Department of Transportation, Chicago Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads. The program comprises 70 critically needed rail and highway infrastructure improvements in northeastern Illinois aimed at reducing congestion and increasing the efficiency of freight and passenger rail service throughout the region. The program includes $448 million of investment by the state of Illinois.
The Bridgeview project is part of Governor Quinn's $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! program, which will support more than 439,000 jobs over six years. Illinois Jobs Now! is the largest capital construction program in Illinois history, and is one of the largest capital construction programs in the nation.