FRANKLIN PARK, Ill. — It’s not the largest or most essential component of a decades-long, $4.6 billion dollar effort to unclog Chicago’s rail network called CREATE. But completion of the $14.5 million Metra/Canadian Pacific Crossover Upgrades Project is typical of incremental improvements that sporadic funding achieves.
Six crossovers and associated signaling now allow Canadian Pacific trains to bypass the railroad’s Bensenville Yard on existing Metra tracks on their way to and from Indiana Harbor Belt trackage that leads through Chicago to eastern connections. At the same time, Metra Milwaukee District West trains on the route from Chicago’s Union Station to Big Timber, west of Elgin, Ill., gain flexibility at what had become a bottleneck for both the freight and passenger carrier.
Another crossover has been added between the IHB and Canadian National’s route to Wisconsin that crosses Metra at the B12 interlocking east of the Franklin Park station.
Officials from Canadian Pacific, Metra, and Cook County gathered Tuesday to call attention to the importance of “B1,” the 31st of 70 Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) completed projects.
“Conflicts [between freight and passenger trains] are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work hard to eliminate them,” Metra Chairman Romayne Brown told the crowd before she cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Since 2003, federal and local sources, freight railroads serving Chicago, and Amtrak have all contributed funding for CREATE planning and construction. This project was Metra’s turn. Its board recently approved 2022 capital expenditures of $261 million and an operating budget of $900 million, aided by almost $300
million of federal Covid-19 relief funding for operations.
The most significant CREATE venture is still a work in progress: the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project on Chicago’s south side. By comparison, it has received $474 million from all sources so far, but two of the four major components have yet to be funded. President Biden’s signing this week of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could help fix that, but the Federal Railroad Administration must first develop guidelines that will decide how billions in spending will be prioritized.