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CREATE partners award $12.5 million in preliminary engineering contracts


Let the CREATE-ive consultancy work begin. On April 20, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced that six engineering consultants had been awarded contracts to begin preliminary engineering work on the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program, a proposed $1.5-billion modernization of the freight and passenger rail infrastructure serving Chicago and northeast Illinois.

The six major freight railroads serving Chicago and Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp. (Metra) — which together with the City of Chicago and IDOT crafted the CREATE Program last June — will contribute $2.5 million to the initial engineering effort and for a mapping project. The state funds were appropriated as part of Illinois First, the state's five-year, $10-billion transportation and education infrastructure investment program.

HNTB was awarded the base mapping project. The program includes five critical groups of projects for awards. The firms selected include Parsons Transportation Group Inc., Edwards and Kelcey Design Services, TranSystems Corp., Hanson Professional Services Inc. and Alfred Benesch & Co.

"Our grant of $10 million will provide seed money to begin engineering work on CREATE so we can jump-start construction when additional funding becomes available," said IDOT Secretary Timothy Martin in a prepared statement, adding that IDOT and city planners continue to urge Congress to include "significant funding" for the project in the TEA-21 reauthorization bill.

CREATE partners hope to create five rail corridors, including one primarily for passenger trains; grade separate 25 crossings to eliminate commuter delays; build six flyovers to separate freight- and commuter-rail traffic; and remove a downtown rail corridor to enable commercial development.

Expected to take six years to complete, the project is designed to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, improve access for emergency vehicles (six grade separations would involve "911" critical crossings); promote more efficient commuter-rail service; and produce almost $500 million in annual public benefits, partnership principals believe.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Canadian National Railway Co., Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad have committed more than $210 million toward the project. City, state and federal agencies, and Metra will contribute the remainder.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/20/2004