Blue Island rail project to smooth freight traffic
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org September 24, 2013 9:20PM
Updated: October 26, 2013 6:08AM
Freight trains and motorists will be able to move more efficiently now that a $9.7 million project has been completed at the rail yard in Blue Island.
The project involved installing crossovers, tracks that allow trains to switch lanes, near Vermont Street from the CSX-Indiana Harbor Belt line that runs from Summit to Blue Island and connecting them for the first time with the CSX line that runs from Blue Island north to BNSF’s Corwith Yard in Chicago near the Stevenson Expressway, CSX communications director Carla Groleau said.
This will allow freight trains to reduce idling time, clear a crossing quicker and reduce congestion for trains and the driving public in the Chicago area, she said.
The project is part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program that will add rail capacity for the Chicago area, which is projected to see a 50 percent increase in rail freight over the next 10 years, Groleau said.
The federal government provided $6.4 million, CSX Transportation $3.2 million and the state $92,000 to complete the project.
In addition to new crossovers, the work included bi-directional switching and signal modernization. Currently, up to 33 daily trains are directly impacted by the project.
“Congestion is always an issue, with trains stopping to get into the yards,” Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas said. “I applaud any reduction in stoppage, and anything that moves them quicker in a safe manner.”
Blue Island always has been a railroad town, and tracks cross major intersections at 119th and 127th streets, Vargas said.
“We will continue to work with the federal government and the railroads to minimize the disruption from trains,” the mayor said, adding that he hopes to upgrade crossings to make them quiet zones and eliminate the need for train horns.
“This is an important project that will have a significant impact in Blue Island, the south suburbs and Chicagoland area as a whole, Gov. Pat Quinn said in a news release.
The CREATE program is a partnership of the state of Illinois, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chicago, Amtrak, Metra and freight railroads.
To date, 18 CREATE projects have been completed, reducing passenger and freight train delays by 33 percent and 28 percent, respectively, where the projects have been completed. Another 11 are in construction now, with 19 more in planning or final design stages.
More information on CREATE is at www.createprogram.org.