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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Chicago’s CREATE lands $70 million federal grant for Westside project

Chicago’s CREATE lands $70 million federal grant for Westside project

By | September 21, 2022

Westside Gateway, part of Western Avenue corridor, will see major improvements on UP line

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Freight train with yellow locomotive against Chicago skyline
Freight train with yellow locomotive against Chicago skyline
As seen from the Kedzie Metra station, a Union Pacific train enters the UP West line from the Rockwell Line at the Rockwell Connection in September 2020. A federal grant will help fund a CREATE project focusing on Rockwell Line improvements. David Lassen

CHICAGO — Chicago’s CREATE Program will receive $70 million in federal funding for a $170 million project to modernize a 2-mile stretch of Union Pacific track on the city’s west side, the partners in the Chicago Region Environment and Transportation Efficiency Program have announced.

Map showing Union Pacific's Rockwell Line
A detail from a 1996 Chicago Operating Rules Association map shows UP’s Rockwell Line between the Rockwell Connection and Ogden Junction.

The Westside Gateway or Ogden Junction project, project WA1 on CREATE’s Western Avenue corridor, will repair, replace, or eliminate 16 railroad bridges — some more than a century old — on UP’s Rockwell Line, which parallels Rockwell Avenue between Fulton and 16th Streets. Viaducts below the bridges will also be repaired, repainted, and in some cases have clearances increased.

“This federal funding will help improve bridges and viaducts that go over local streets on our city’s West Side, which will lead to supply chain improvements and enhanced community mobility,” Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot said in a press release. “The City of Chicago is grateful for this federal support and looks forward to continuing to work with our CREATE partners on improving our rail infrastructure.”

“The goal of the CREATE program is to unsnarl rail lines, make them safer and ultimately cut down the amount of time it takes to transport these goods,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “We must continue making significant investments in our infrastructure and this funding will allow the CREATE program to do just that.”

The full Ogden Junction project extends from Kedzie Avenue to 16th Street. It will include 10,000 feet of new track and signal improvements, expected to eliminate thousands of hours of Metra commuter train delays and reduce freight-train conflicts. Also in the plans are installation of a bidirectional, computerized traffic control system, replacing seven hand-thrown switches with power switches, and new control points at Taylor Street, Ogden Avenue, and 16th Street, to allow simultaneous movements between UP, CSX, and Norfolk Southern.

11 thoughts on “Chicago’s CREATE lands $70 million federal grant for Westside project

  1. Why is the government paying to improve a stretch of track entirely owned by the UP? Why doesn’t the UP do it themselves?

    1. The class 1s are all extremely stingy with capital improvement spending and will spend the least money even if it hurts their service.

    2. Chicago’s CREATE is a public -private investment in improving train traffic flow through the city.

      The Rockwell Sub used to house CNW and the Pennsylvania RR and after the Conrail split, NS used it to bring container traffic into the now UP Proviso Yard. CNW used it to transfer traffic between Proviso and Global 1.

      But it was not signalled for through traffic and after the former Pennsylvania tracks were removed by NS since they only had 1 online customer, these NS container trains would essentially block the sub until Metra rush hours subsided.

      A lot of auto parts come up from NS to UP to reach auto assembly plants, and many of these use JIT arrivals. So delays at this sub were one of the many choke points.

      As for who is paying for it, the grant is only for $70 million, that still leaves $100 million for the regional railroads to cover.

      The ROW easily supports more tracks, but UP would not be the only benefactor, so would NS and for reasons I don’t understand just yet, CP. This doubling of fully signalled track capacity will allow freights to be scheduled much better with Metra traffic.

      This would also allow an Amtrak route to get pushed up to CUS using the north access (if a draw bridge goes out on the south entrance) though I haven’t heard anyone trying to do so.

  2. The former B&OCT used to be Northern Pacific owned, but that was over 100 years ago. Also I do not believe that has anything to do with this stretch of track but not 100% sure. I grew up on Milwaukee Road in the burbs so not that familiar with this track

  3. I think they meant Canadian Pacific.

    Hey…if they want to put in a mega set of diamonds at A-2 that allows CPKC freights to access Clearing via this Sub instead of the Kenton Sub, I am sure they would love it, but I don’t think Metra will.

    The east side of the Rockwell ROW was used by the Pennsylvania to reach their freight house north of CUS and under the CNW. It looks like ADM finally tore down their flour mill at 1300 Carroll Street. I think it was the last legacy online customer that NS had to service from the Conrail split. All the commercial bakeries downtown used to get their flour there.

    1. JOHN — You just stepped into my favorite trivia question. Which as you say has been overtaken by events and no longer is the case. Trivia question. Alongside what Amtrak route would you be very surprised to see an NS switching move.

      ANSWER (But no longer the case.) The Hiawatha.

      This was a legacy of when PRR came into both sides of Chicago Union Station. The main line PRR trains into the PRR/ GM&O/ CBQ side (south). The PRR “Panhandle” trains into the MILW side (north) the long way around.

      I actually once did see an NS switcher, just before the mill was closed and torn down. Busy mill, you’d see a whole lot of hopper cars parked there. Considering the mill’s tiny footprint, a whole lot of rail traffic. Passed the spot last week on Amtrak, it’s now just a small vacant parcel.

    2. Yes, back in the day when I rode the Metra West Line, I saw an NS switcher on the siding with a bunch of hoppers in front a set of elevators. Since I found it weird to see large elevators so close to the Loop, I remembered seeing Blommer Chocolate getting serviced showed me that Chicago’s industrial roots were still very much downtown.

      Now this was back when the old C&M (MILW) yard was still in place, rusted and growing weeds and the control signals shut off on the signal bridge. I saw a lone set of rails coming from the south and turning east. Those tracks went as far as the siding for those elevators and then stopped. So I had to go back and pull my SPV books to see who it was that ran this line. I was surprised this was a PRR access to the north side of CUS. I was even more surprised when I read that when Metra tore down all those buildings under the tracks going into the OTC, that those were the PRR’s freight houses.

      This was also when CNW still had a branch line that broke off east of A-2 and it went downhill and connected with the Merchandise Mart and its draw bridge.

      Anyway over the years I watched as one at a time they removed the PRR tracks, the C&M tracks, the CNW tracks and sold the land for development down near where Milwaukee Avenue “used” to be.

    1. You know, instead of complaining about a typo here, you could contact the staff and have them correct it. Doing that now.

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