UP triple track to separate Chicago commuter, freight rail
The Union Pacific Railroad and the Illinois Department of Transportation will each invest $45 million to construct a third main track on two short sections of a commuter rail line that runs between Chicago and its western suburbs, the railroad and state officials announced Friday.
The construction is the last of several improvements being made to the Metra West Line and will complete the triple track for the entire route. It is designed to ensure smoother traffic flow and reduce conflicts between commuter and freight trains that share the line. The new track will enable 59 Metra trains and 70 freight trains use the West Line at the same time, which officials say will improve reliability and speed for both railroads. Currently, trains must funnel from three tracks to two between West Chicago and Geneva and between River Forest and Melrose Park.
Previously, Metra and the UP modernized signal systems and added traffic crossovers to make freight movement more efficient. Work is also underway to improve two stations.
"When completed, operations will be smoother for our customers and Chicagoland commuters, and I know outlying communities will appreciate not having freight trains staged until the morning or afternoon commuter rush hours are over," UP President and Chief Operating Officer Lance Fritz said.
Other upgrades to the West Line have been completed through the CREATE program, a multi-year public-private partnership devoted to unclogging rail transportation in the nation's largest rail hub. The projects include a rail overpass taking the line over tracks operated by the Harbor Belt Railroad, the rehabilitation of two passenger stations and the addition of pedestrian tunnels, and signal and track improvements. The project was funded through a $52 million federal TIGER grant, $27 million from freight railroads, other federal funding totaling $3 million and a $615,000 investment by Illinois.
The rail industry has invested an additional $2 billion in capital improvements that complement its investment in CREATE.
The 21 CREATE projects completed to date have improved passenger and freight reliability by 30 percent, according to UP. Illinois has contributed $500 million of the $1.3 billion invested so far. The federal government has contributed $450 million, with $325 million coming from the railroad industry and $30 million from the city of Chicago.
Fritz was joined at the Bellwood station by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to announce the next phase of the West Line improvement project and celebrate the completion of the CREATE portion of the work.
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