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The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Argonne National Laboratory a $2.9 million grant to help transit systems prepare for and respond to emergencies, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's (UIUC) Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) a $2.4 million grant to improve rail safety and infrastructure, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) announced earlier this week.Argonne's proposal was developed in partnership with Metra, Pace, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology, according to a press release issued by Durbin's office.The grant was made available through the Federal Transit Administration's Innovative Safety, Resiliency, and All-Hazards Emergency Response and Recovery Demonstration program. Argonne's project calls for developing new computational tools that transit agencies can use to plan for and react to severe events, service disruptions and catastrophic failures."A lack of evacuation procedures or a failure of coordination among transit systems can have catastrophic consequences during emergency," Durbin said. "Using the Chicago area's multimodal transportation network as a research site, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory will use this federal funding to develop tools that can be used by transit agencies across the country for planning and reacting to emergencies."The RailTEC's $2.4 million award will be used to help improve the safety of components used in transit-rail infrastructure, said Riley Edwards, RailTEC's research scientist and senior lecturer.RailTEC is a research and education center in the university's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The center plans to work with U.S. transit agencies to develop designs for concrete ties and fastening systems used in light-, heavy- and commuter-rail infrastructure that will take into account a railroad's unique loading conditions.