Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program
The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE) is a $3.2 billion project to improve the efficiency of the rail network in the Chicago area by building, amongst other things, flyovers to separate rail traffic on conflicting lines. While the need is fairly clear, finance for the project has been done by piecemeal in the United States Congress, Illinois General Assembly, and private entities.
The tracks and junctions in the Chicago area have grown with little coordination between the railroads and the city since the first railroads arrived in the 1830s. There are a large number of at-grade crossings, sometimes not located a train length apart which is a problem as train lengths have grown. Some flyovers exist but do not always have sufficient clearance for tall or double-stack trains. Some connections that would create short cuts for traffic are missing. There are also many highway crossings at grades.
The congestion in the Chicago area is predicted to lead to severe disruption by the late 2010s without the completion of the CREATE program.
The program is composed of a total of 71 separate projects, of which 46 are eliminating rail junctions and the remainder are eliminating grade crossings. As of November 2017, a total of 29 had been fully completed, 5 were under construction, four are in final design, and another 13 are in the preliminary design and environmental review process.
Brighton Park Crossing
The Brighton Park crossing, is major crossing serving 76 trains a day from CSX, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern, Metra's Heritage Corridor, and Amtrak. There are two major projects at Brighton Park in coordination with CREATE. The first project, completed over the Fourth of July in 2007, replaced a semaphore signal and interlocked the crossing at a cost of $9.5 million. The second project is to construct a flyover on Canadian National tracks over the Western Avenue corridor tracks to reduce congestion and eliminate delays. This project is currently unfunded.
A $140 million project in Englewood, Chicago planned since 2002, began construction in 2011. The junction would get a flyover for Metra trackage above a Norfolk Southern route, eliminating a diamond crossing. 138 trains a day operate through the junction, which is the cause of the majority of delays in the Midwest for Amtrak trains. On June 22, 2011, it was announced that the State of Illinois, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, and the Federal Railway Administration had signed a final agreement for financing the project with the federal government paying 95% of the cost. The project was completed and began service in October 2014.
75th Street Corridor
On a daily basis, 80 Metra and freight trains cross paths along the Belt Railway of Chicago on Chicago's South Side near 75th Street. The project budgeted at $474 million, began construction in October 2018, and is scheduled to be completed in 2025. As a part of this project, Metra plans to reroute SouthWest Service commuter trains from Chicago Union Station to LaSalle Street Station, in order for high-speed passenger trains to operate into Union Station.
- Construction of additional Union Pacific mainline trackage near Proviso Yard
- Signaling and grade-separation improvements to the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad
- General improvements to roadways near railroad overpasses
- Additional trackage, improved signaling and grade separations on CSX trackage in Alsip
CREATE is a public-private partnership estimated to cost around $3 billion, up from an initial predicted cost of $1 billion. $230 million is to be supplied by railroads that are part of the program, with the remainder coming from governments at federal, state and local levels. In July 2010, a $100 million TIGER grant from the federal government was finalized. As of late 2010, a total of around $320 million had been committed to the project, with an additional $133 million to be provided from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In 2018, CREATE received a $132 million grant from the United States Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program. Other sources of funding included grants from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Association of American Railroads (AAR), Cook County, Metra, the City of Chicago, and Amtrak.
- "More projects, more funding still on CREATE's slate, UP's Payette says". Progressive Railroading. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- "IDOT INFRA application 75CIP-B9" (PDF). Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- Gustason, Bill (2006). "Brighton Park Crossing". Chicago Area Rail Junctions. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- "P5 Brighton Park Flyover" (PDF). CREATE. June 2018. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- "Brighton Park Interlocking July 6-9, 2007" (PDF). Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program. July 2007. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Hilkevitch, Jon (July 16, 2007). "Upgrade program running on rails". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- "Englewood flyover work to begin this year". Trains Magazine. March 5, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
- Hilkevitch, Jon (June 22, 2011). "Construction to begin on Englewood Flyover rail bridges". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on June 24, 2011. Retrieved June 24, 2011.
- Schwartz, John (May 7, 2012). "Train Late? Blame Chicago". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
- Wronski, Richard (October 23, 2014). "'Flyover' aimed at cutting rail congestion". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
- Wisniewski, Mary (June 5, 2018). "State gets $132 million federal grant to reduce South Side railroad delays". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
- "Preckwinkle, Partners Mark 75th Street Rail Corridor Improvement Project". The Chicago Crusader. October 1, 2018. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
- "CREATE partners apply TIGER funds to five projects". Progressive Railroading. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
- "CREATE project completed in southern Chicago suburb". Progressive Railroading. 8 November 2011. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- Wanek-Libman, Mischa (June 6, 2018). "INFRA grants: $148M to CREATE and Ohio rail projects". Railway Track and Structures. Retrieved December 11, 2018.