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U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Saturday joined other state, local and rail industry officials to open the 71st Street underpass in Bridgeview, Ill., a $29.8 million Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program grade separation project.A senior member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and a CREATE program advocate, Lipinski touted the need for increased federal funding in grade separation projects during his address at the event. Separating road from rail traffic means less congestion for motorists, improved safety, healthier air and an increased efficiency in goods movement, he said, according to a press release.Before the underpass was built, as many as 80 CSX Transportation and Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Co. (IHB) trains crossed 71st Street each day in Bridgeview, causing traffic congestion and long motorist delays, especially after events held at nearby Toyota Park, a multi-use stadium. The project will relieve an estimated 31 hours of combined delays for motorists daily, said Lipinski."It will be clear to anyone who lives and drives in Bridgeview after today that the advantages to doing more of these critical grade separations are substantial," he said. "As we celebrate the completion of the 71st Street underpass, I am hopeful that there will be a greater commitment to these projects that do so much for our communities."Known as CREATE project GS14, the Bridgeview underpass involved grade separating four CSX and IHB tracks from 71st Street. The project, which began in June 2011, was funded by $20.3 million from a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant and $9.5 million from the state's Illinois Jobs Now! capital program.The Bridgeview project is the third of 25 planned grade separations in the CREATE program to be completed. Three others are under construction, seven have received some funding and the remaining 12 so far haven't obtained funding, said Lipinski.The more than $3 billion CREATE program involves 70 projects designed to separate freight and passenger trains at six key junctions in the Chicago area; increase rail capacity, speed and reliability; and eliminate 25 grade crossings. The program is managed via a public-private partnership among Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads, BNSF Railway Co., Belt Railway Co. of Chicago, Chicago DOT, Canadian Pacific, CN, CSX, Illinois DOT, IHB, Metra, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad.
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