Last week the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao notified Congress of DOT’s INFRA grant winners.  The Chicago CREATE program will receive over $132 million to reduce congestion where multiple railroads intersect and to eliminate automobile traffic delays by separating rail and automobile traffic.  In Ohio, the Ohio Rail Development Commission will receive over $16.2 million to improve 30 miles of rail line.

The INFRA program formerly known as the FASTLANE program focuses on highway projects, but projects that shift freight to other modes of transportation are eligible.

Under the INFRA program, DOT prioritizes projects that have considerable local investment.    The CREATE program is an example of local commitment to a transportation infrastructure project.  In addition to the $132 million in federal funds, the Illinois DOT ($111M), Cook County ($78M), and Chicago ($9M) are contributing to the project as well as Metra ($23M) and Amtrak ($5M).  The Association of American Railroads is also contributing $116 million.

The INFRA grant funding will allow the CREATE Program to fund three of these proposals:

  • The Forest Hill flyover consists of a new north-south flyover structure eliminating conflicts between north-south and east-west train movements at the Foresthill Junction;
  • The 71st Street Grade Separation will separate the Western Avenue rail corridor from 71st street;
  • The Argo Connections component will improve connections at the Argo and Cana junction, address the 87th Street chokepoint, and increase capacity at Argo yard.

These projects are part of the larger CREATE program, which has identified over 70 projects needed throughout Chicago to relieve rail related congestion.

The INFRA grant to the Ohio Rail Development Commission is another example where the sponsor, a division of the Ohio Department of Transportation, is partnering with a railroad. The Norfolk Southern is contributing 40% of the funding to improve 30 miles of rail line along the Ohio River in Jefferson and Belmont County which includes capacity improvement at two rail yards.  Local officials in this rural area hope that the track improvements will attract an ethane cracker plant.