IDOT Awarded $70 Million of IIJA Funds to Rehab Century-Old Freight Rail Tracks
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) recently received $70 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to rehabilitate railroad track, upgrade signaling, and replace, remove, or rehabilitate 18 viaduct structures. Approximately 41,000 feet of new track will be constructed or shifted. The project will improve an elevated, high-density freight rail running through central Chicago. This century-old structure is in dire need of modernization. The work will include Track Class Designation upgrades that will allow for faster freight speeds and a more efficient supply chain. Additionally, project sponsors have engaged with labor unions and residents to ensure that the project design meets local needs and ensures community connectivity.
The Chicago region contains an extensive freight rail network, handling the movement of 1,300 trains each day, including 500 freight and 760 passenger trains for a total of 37,500 railcars. The region contains an estimated 3,865 track-miles of rail -- greater mileage than nearly 40 other states -- as well as both passenger and freight rail facilities, including more than 50 freight rail yards. Nearly 1,400 of the region's track-miles are shared by both passenger and freight trains. The density of the rail network here provides unparalleled opportunities to make connections among the railroads, as well as connections to trucking and other modes, providing choices and access to markets for shippers in our region.
However, this concentration of rail activity presents some challenges to the region, such as causing motorist delay at highway-rail grade crossings, transit delays where freight and passenger trains share track, and a reduction in speeds and productivity as trains navigate our region's congested rail network.
There are several private and public-private initiatives underway or recently completed to increase capacity and efficiency of the region's rail network. The most prominent of these is the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program, or CREATE, a multi-billion dollar public-private partnership to expand the Chicago rail network's capacity, separate passenger and freight rail lines, reduce the number of at-grade crossings between railroads and highways, and better coordinate operations.
The IIJA funds will be used to support the work that CREATE has outlined.