Englewood Flyover opens; eliminates bottleneck for Michigan Amtrak trains

From a METRA press release:

The Englewood Flyover. Photo courtesy Norfolk Southern Railway.
The Englewood Flyover. Photo courtesy Norfolk Southern Railway.

Federal, state and local officials celebrated in October 2014 the opening of the $142 million Englewood flyover, a major railroad bridge that has eliminated a significant source of train delays on the south side of Chicago and has reduced emissions and noise from idling trains in the neighborhood.

The flyover bridge replaced a crossing between the Metra Rock Island tracks and a set of Norfolk Southern tracks at 63rd and State St. With the completion of this project, 78 weekday Rock Island Line trains are now carried over the busy freight tracks used by approximately 60 freight and Amtrak trains, eliminating conflicts between trains that result in service delays.

The flyover is a major accomplishment of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program, a first-of-its-kind partnership between U.S. Department of Transportation, the State of Illinois, City of Chicago, Metra, Amtrak, and the nation’s freight railroads to eliminate railroad bottlenecks in the Chicago area.

“The Englewood flyover is one of the pillars of the CREATE program and helps to strengthen Chicago and Illinois as the transportation hub of North America,” Gov. Pat Quinn said. “Projects like these that invest in our infrastructure are economic engines that create jobs, encourage economic growth and improve the quality of life for residents throughout the region.”

“Chicago has been the rail hub of our nation for more than a century, yet for too long this area was plagued with freight congestion and bottlenecks that hurt productivity and rippled across the system. I’m proud to have played a role securing the funding needed to unsnarl the bottleneck and make the Englewood flyover a reality,” said Sen. Dick Durbin. “Today we’re here to celebrate a project completed with more than 90 percent federal funds that will bring improved Metra and Amtrak service, more efficient freight movement, and economic developments for today and the future.”

“We have been looking forward to this day for a long time,” said Wick Moorman, chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern. “It’s impossible to overstate the positive impact this project will have on Norfolk Southern’s service, along with Amtrak’s and Metra’s. Not only will this project eliminate many hours in freight and passenger train delays daily, but it frees up additional capacity for all of us to continue to grow our business.”

“Fourteen daily Amtrak trains to and from Chicago have faced delays at this location that are felt in Michigan, Indiana and all the way to the East Coast,” said Tom Carper, Amtrak board member and past chairman. “Delays drive up cost and hold-down ridership, so CREATE projects such as this one are truly of national importance and big wins for Amtrak passengers, Metra commuters and the freight railroads, too.”

“The completion of the Englewood flyover means improvement in the quality of life for area residents,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski. “The benefits include fewer delays for Metra and Amtrak users, fewer delays for area drivers, better air quality, a reduction in noise from idling trains, and an overall improvement in safety.  I am committed to seeing the rest of the much-needed CREATE projects through to completion.”

“The Englewood flyover will ease congestion through this busy rail area, an essential step in maintaining Cook County’s position as the critical intersection for the transportation network that serves America,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Unclogging the rails is an important step in ensuring a smooth running transportation system, which in turn will lead to economic growth for our entire region.”

“Metra could not be any happier to have this bridge completed,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “Our riders are already enjoying the benefits of passing through this area without experiencing any delays due to conflicts with freight or Amtrak trains. This project would not have come to fruition without the cooperation, funding and support provided by our partners in this project and our federal and state elected officials. It is a prime example of the progress we can make in the region when we all come together.”

The flyover was funded with $126 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act High-Speed Rail funds, $4.9 million in other federal money, $8.2 million from the State of Illinois and $3 million from the railroad industry, including Metra.

The Englewood flyover is the first project planned under the CREATE program to reduce conflicts between passenger and freight trains in the Englewood area and prepare the corridor to accommodate high speed rail service. Its completion lays the groundwork for two more CREATE projects. The planned 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project will divert trains on Metra’s Southwest Service to the Rock Island District at a point south of Englewood. The planned Grand Crossing Project will divert six daily Amtrak trains to Norfolk Southern tracks east of Englewood. With the flyover in service, the 75th Street and Grand Crossing projects can move forward without creating further bottlenecks at the busy Englewood interlocker.