CREATE Project is Vital to the Chicago Region’s Economy
On June 22, the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) approved a $10.4 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program grant to the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) project. The grant will complete a $370 million rail improvement funding package that was established through CREATE’s groundbreaking public-private partnership between the US DOT, State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, Metra, Amtrak, and the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
These TIGER funds will contribute to the completion of fifteen planned infrastructure improvement projects, eight of which are concentrated along CREATE’s Western Avenue corridor. Five railroads–Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Canadian National, CSX, Indiana Harbor Belt, and Union Pacific–as well as a Metra line to Joliet and an Amtrak line to St. Louis are concentrated along the busy corridor. TIGER-funded system updates will benefit all of these rail lines by replacing hand-thrown switches with automatic ones, installing a computerized Traffic Control System, and constructing connection tracks between the different lines. These improvement projects will reduce congestion for both passenger and freight lines, resulting in increased rail capacity–good for businesses–and more efficient transit trips–good for commuters. Chicago has been a national leader in rail transit for more than 150 years. Reduced delays and increased rail efficiency in this critical transit corridor will help ensure Chicago rail’s continued vitality.
CREATE projects have already made significant progress in congestion mitigation: freight delay has decreased by 28 percent and passenger delay by 33 percent as a result of past improvements. The upcoming projects will be equally effective (when compared to a system with no additional improvements), with delay reductions projected at 50 percent for freight and over 60 percent for passenger rail.
I believe that this example of strategic investment through the federal TIGER grant—enabling improvements in movement through the city, creating connections between housing and job opportunities, and providing for economic prosperity within the Chicago region. If Chicago takes this opportunity to make more strategic investments in transportation infrastructure it will become a national model for urban transit success.
Governor Quinn underscored the importance of CREATE to the economy of the region with his recent announcement of the next phase of Illinois Jobs Now! capital funds, which will encourage employment and economic growth by improving the state’s transportation and basic infrastructure systems. CREATE will receive $211 million of the $1.6 billion package, to augment the TIGER funding and complete the key 15 projects for increasing the transit efficiency and safety that are currently planned. Highway improvements will receive $817.3 million, and mass transit and general rail upgrades will receive $799.5 million.
Quinn’s commitment to improving transit mobility is heartening. I hope that more decision makers and stakeholders take notice, and continue to implement transit-friendly legislation. Chicago has the opportunity to lead the nation in transportation sustainability –let’s make it happen!