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BUILD grant for Springfield, Ill., will benefit Chicago-St. Louis service
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BUILD grant for Springfield, Ill., will benefit Chicago-St. Louis service

Illinois’ capital city took a big step toward completing a project that will improve passenger rail schedules on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Springfield in December won a $22 million federal BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant for “Usable Segment IV” of the Springfield Rail Improvements Project.

The $315 million project will relocate the existing Amtrak/Union Pacific Railroad corridor from its current location – a single-track right-of-way along (and occasionally in the middle of) 3rd Street, which runs north-south through a residential neighborhood – east to an expanded, grade-separated corridor in a more business and industrial area along 10th St.

Plans include a new connection north of downtown Springfield between the UP and Illinois & Midland Railroad which will bring Amtrak/UP trains to the Norfolk Southern Railroad’s 10th St. corridor. (The 3rd St. corridor will serve
Amtrak passenger and Union Pacific freight rail traffic until construction of the 10th St corridor is completed.)

The new 10th St. corridor will eventually accommodate two tracks each for Amtrak/UP and Norfolk Southern. A new Amtrak station is slated to be built four blocks east of the Old State Capitol. (The current station is two blocks west of the Old Capitol.)

Beth McCluskey, director of IDOT’s office of Intermodal Project Implementation, welcomed the news, saying, “IDOT continues to partner with the city of Springfield on its goal to consolidate and grade separate rail traffic along the 10th Street Corridor.

“Usable Segment IV is another key project that moves the City of Springfield closer to its goal,” McCluskey said.

The Springfield Rail Improvements project aims to alleviate rail congestion downtown and accommodate anticipated increases in both passenger and freight rail traffic (from 35 trains daily in 2010 to 81 in 2030) by building a series of overpasses and underpasses along the widened corridor.

Work on “Usable Segment IV” will include replacing two existing single-track bridges carrying the Norfolk Southern right-of-way over both 5th and 6th Streets on Springfield’s south side with new double-track bridges to accommodate the expanded corridor. It also includes grading, drainage and track work.

The project will reduce travel times for the state-supported Lincoln Service and long-distance Texas Eagle trains and benefit Springfield residents by eliminating train horn noise and reducing the city’s at-grade crossings from 68 to 32. The work is also projected to reduce car/train accidents by 80 percent, pedestrian/train incidents by 95 percent and vehicle delays at rail crossings by 71 percent.

Work on the Springfield Rail Improvements project began in 2014 with construction of a rail overpass on Carpenter Street, a major east-west road on the north edge of downtown Springfield (that work was completed in 2016). Construction of the second usable segment – underpasses for Laurel and Ash streets, both major east-west roads south of downtown – is currently underway and is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

This BUILD grant, which was one of 91 awarded nationwide (totaling $1.5 billion) in December, covers about half the $44.1 million cost of “Usable Segment IV”; the Springfield State Journal-Register reported that the Illinois Department of Transportation is covering $17.2 million while the city of Springfield is contributing $4.8 million.

The federal BUILD grant program was formerly known as TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery), a popular discretionary grant program created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Trump Administration renamed the program after taking office and placed greater emphases on rural projects and leveraging non-federal dollars. A total of 851 applications (more than double the number of applications for 2017) requesting more than $10.9 billion were received for the 2018 round of grants.
 
You can view the corridors and street crossings at Google Maps.

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