BELLWOOD – Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Union Pacific Railroad President and COO Lance Fritz to announce that the Union Pacific (UP) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are making a significant investment in Metra’s West Line. Each will invest $45 million for the construction of a new third main line track on the UP/Metra’s West Line, from River Forest to Melrose Park and then from West Chicago to Geneva. The announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to create jobs and build a 21st century infrastructure that will drive Illinois’ economy forward.
“Today we are investing in jobs that will help solidify Illinois’ status as the premier rail center of the nation,” Governor Quinn said. “This final piece of the West Line improvement program will enhance commuter and freight travel on one of our state’s busiest rail lines. Building world-class infrastructure is vital to a healthy economy and today’s investment will help get us there.”
The West Line improvements are designed to ensure smoother traffic flow and reduce conflicts between the commuter and freight trains that share the line. Earlier projects completed by Metra and UP modernized the signal system and added crossovers to make freight movement more efficient. A third phase on the West Line – improving the Lombard and Wheaton Metra stations – will be finished in 2015. The West Line third track construction announced today is the final step that will allow the 59 Metra trains and 70 freight trains that use the line each day to operate at the same time, a critical step to improving the line’s reliability and efficiency.
The announcement was made during a celebration to mark the completion of a CREATE rail project that included the construction of a rail overpass, the rehabilitation of two passenger stations and the addition of pedestrian tunnels in Bellwood and Berkeley, and signal and track improvements along the UP/Metra West Line. The project created and supported 1,000 jobs and was funded primarily through a $52 million TIGER grant, a $27 million commitment from UP and other freight railroad partners, other federal funding of $3 million, and a $615,000 investment by the state of Illinois.
The CREATE program has completed a total of 21 projects and generated 10,000 jobs and has caused a 30 percent improvement in passenger and freight reliability. The program has been supported by a total of $500 million from the state, $450 million from the federal government, $325 million from the railroad industry and $30 million from the city of Chicago.
“Our nation’s system of bridges, rail, and roads is the strength of the nation, tying us together and giving us access to the world,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said. “Chicago remains the busiest rail hub in the United States, with more than 1,000 trains passing through the region every day. Protecting and investing in our nation’s infrastructure, and specifically in Illinois’ transportation network, is one of my top priorities. The CREATE project we’re celebrating the completion of today created and supported 1,000 jobs while relieving congestion and delays on the most frequently used UP rail line into Chicago. As additional CREATE projects are completed, we’ll see the full economic impact of the federal investments in infrastructure for which I’ve fought and will continue to support.”
“In addition to our investments in CREATE projects, Union Pacific has invested $1 billion in private funding in our infrastructure improvements in Illinois during the past five years,” Union Pacific President and COO Lance Fritz said. “The additional joint investment in the West Line improvement project – $45 million each from IDOT and Union Pacific – is critical to train operations, since the line accounts for 70 freight and 59 passenger trains a day. 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.”
In Chicago, Union Pacific’s 2,900 employees move two million freight cars each year and serve more than 100,000 passengers each day.
“This is a new day for Metra, one in which we want to ensure that every project we execute puts commuters first,” Metra Chairman Martin Oberman said. “We are confident the West Line improvements will greatly improve the commuter experience.”
Chicago is the busiest rail hub of the nation, handling 1,300 freight and passenger trains every day. CREATE was started in 2003 to attract and invest funds in the infrastructure necessary to maintain Chicago’s leading rail status. The rail industry has invested an additional $2 billion in capital improvements that complement its investment in CREATE.
The state of Illinois’ portion of the third track project is part of Governor Quinn’s $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! program, which is supporting more than 439,000 jobs over six years. Illinois Jobs Now! is the largest construction program in Illinois history, and is one of the largest construction programs in the nation.