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CREATE flyover funds at stake in House FY2011 spending bill, congressmen say


A $133 million federal grant obtained by Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program partners last year to fund the Englewood Flyover is at risk because of the recently passed House spending bill, according to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

The flyover’s funding would be eliminated in H.R. 1, the fiscal-year 2011 spending bill approved by the House Feb. 19, the congressmen said in a joint statement. If the legislation — which is now being considered by the Senate — becomes law, the measure would cost as many as 1,450 Chicago-area jobs associated with the flyover, they said. The congressmen pledged to fight for the federal dollars promised for the project.

“This mindless cut is a clear signal that the House-passed bill is not the product of a thoughtful effort. Yes, we need to cut spending, but we need to do so in a responsible manner,” said Durbin. “We shouldn’t abandon our commitments to creating jobs and economic development in the midst of this recession.”

To be constructed near 63rd and State streets in Englewood on Chicago’s south side, the flyover would enable a north-south Metra Rock Island line to cross over an east-west Norfolk Southern Railway/Amtrak line, eliminating conflicts between 78 Metra trains and about 60 freight and Amtrak trains that currently cross at grade in the area each day.

The Englewood Flyover would provide “a tremendous bang for the buck” by reducing delays on Metra’s Rock Island line and providing the first critical step toward eliminating delays on Metra’s Southwest Service line, benefiting 40,000 riders every weekday, said Lipinski, who describes the flyover as a "linchpin" of the CREATE program.

“Just last month, Chicagoland traffic congestion was named the worst in the country. By keeping truck traffic off our roads and making commuting on Metra faster and more reliable, the Englewood Flyover will provide badly needed congestion relief that keeps our economy moving,” he said.

During the next 20 years, demand for freight-rail service in Chicago is expected to nearly double. If rail capacity and infrastructure issues are not addressed through the CREATE program, studies show the Chicago region will miss out on 17,000 additional jobs and $2 billion in annual economic production, according to the congressmen.

The CREATE program includes more than 70 rail improvement and grade separation projects that call for restructuring, modernizing and expanding Chicago's rail network. Public/private CREATE partners include the Association of American Railroads, Amtrak, Belt Railway Co. of Chicago, BNSF Railway Co., CSX Transportation, CN, Canadian Pacific, Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, Metra, Norfolk Southern Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, and Illinois and Chicago Departments of Transportation.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/25/2011