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The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) late last week announced a $10.1 million project to modernize rail operations in the Metro East region in southern Illinois.
The project involves reconfiguring an outdated network of rail tracks and signals and replacing a 97-year-old trackside control tower in Mitchell, Illinois.
The project will be funded by a $5.1 million grant through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program; $2 million from Union Pacific Railroad; $1 million from Amtrak; $440,000 from BNSF Railway Co. and $300,000 from Kansas City Southern.
"Metro East is one of the country's critical freight and travel hubs. These improvements will improve quality of life and make the area an even more attractive location for business activity for years to come," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman in a press release.
The project will streamline rail operations by untangling a complex system of tracks, signals and switches where four lines intersect at one of the most congested areas in the state, near Mitchell, starting this week. The Lenox Tower, a two-story facility that used antiquated switching machinery to control train traffic, was taken down in May, with operations transferred to a UP dispatching center.
When completed this fall, the improvements will increase the speed of freight train operations and decrease traffic congestion on local roads, resulting in fewer blocked crossings and reducing passenger service travel times, IDOT officials said.
Up to 35 trains pass through the location daily.