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Illinois, Michigan passenger rail projects again win RAISE grant awards
Jon Davis
/ Categories: News From MIPRC States

Illinois, Michigan passenger rail projects again win RAISE grant awards

For the second year in a row, Illinois and Michigan have landed passenger rail-related RAISE grant awards.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in early August announced $2.2 billion in 2022 RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) capital and planning grants to 166 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Springfield, Illinois, won $19.8 million for construction of a new underpass to separate the Norfolk Southern and Illinois Midland rail lines from North Grand Avenue by sending the east-west artery over the tracks.

In the 2021 round of RAISE capital grants, this project won $13.5 million for new underpasses at Madison and Jefferson Streets; grading and trackwork from Capitol Avenue to Mason Street; and new grade crossing/pedestrian signals at Washington Street, Monroe Street and Capitol Avenue in downtown Springfield.

Both awards help pay for steps toward completion of the total $355 million Springfield Rail Improvements Project, which is upgrading a portion of the Chicago-to-St. Louis rail corridor by relocating the existing Amtrak/Union Pacific Railroad track east from the middle of a residential street to a new double-track corridor adjacent to existing Norfolk Southern tracks through Illinois’ capital city.

The project, expected to be completed by the end of 2025, will reduce travel times on the state-supported Lincoln Service (Chicago-St. Louis) and long-distance Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio) trains, which will eventually stop at a new multimodal station to be built in downtown Springfield between 9th and 10th streets.

In Michigan, the Cadillac/Wexford Transit Authority won $1.3 million from this year’s round for a “Phase II” planning study to identify and prioritize track and signal improvements needed on the planned Ann Arbor-Traverse City (A2TC) line, and to develop a business plan for the proposed service. Michigan chipped in $1 million for this study in the state’s fiscal year 2023 budget.

A2TC project managers hope to announce a “request for proposals” this fall and get the Phase II study and business plan done by the end of 2023 or early in 2024, said James Bruckbauer, transportation and community design program manager at the Traverse City-based Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, which is working on the project.

“We feel like if we can move forward with this phase and get it done within the next 18 months, then I think we can begin to see service up to Traverse City within five years,” Bruckbauer said.

In the 2021 round of RAISE grants, Detroit won $10 million toward a planned, new $57.3 million intermodal station which will include a combined rail and bus station. The new facility, to be used by the state-supported Wolverine (Detroit/Pontiac-Chicago) train, will provide a wider platform along with new ticketing, waiting, baggage handling and amenities on the north side of the tracks.

A 12-berth intercity bus boarding and alighting area on the south side of the tracks would be covered by a multi-level parking garage; a passenger tunnel would connect the combined passenger station and rail platform to the bus platforms and garage.

RAISE grants are targeted at projects to help urban and rural communities move forward on projects that modernize roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, and intermodal transportation and make transportation systems safer, more accessible, more affordable, and more sustainable.

The RAISE program is the latest iteration of the former BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant program – which was originally the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program of the 2010s.

Later this year, the Biden-Harris Administration will announce recipients of the first-ever National Infrastructure Project Assistance (MEGA) program, as well as the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) and the Rural Surface Transportation (RURAL) programs.

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