News & Reviews News Wire Officials celebrate completion of CREATE Argo Connection project

Officials celebrate completion of CREATE Argo Connection project

By David Lassen | June 18, 2022

| Last updated on February 26, 2024

Work at Belt Railway of Chicago connection with Indiana Harbor Belt/CSX is 32nd completed in Chicago-area program

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Six people with red, white, and blue locomotive in background
Smiling and laughing after cutting the ribbon marking the completion of CREATE’s Argo Connections project on Friday are, from left, Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman; U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, Metra CEO Jim Derwinski, and CSX Transportation General Manager Edward Steinbeck. The Indiana Harbor Belt “Salute to Troops” locomotive and a CSX diesel form the backdrop. David Lassen

SUMMIT, Ill. — Some projects in Chicago’s CREATE program, which seeks to address rail congestion, bring dramatic changes to the landscape. The Englewood Flyover, the lengthy bridge which raised Metra’s Rock Island District above the Norfolk Southern main line on the city’s South Side, is the classic example.

For others, the impact is far more operational than visual. The Argo Connections, project B9 in the CREATE labeling system, is a prime example. Most people may never see the infrastructure work being celebrated on Friday, June 17, but its impact will be widespread.

CREATE (that’s Chicago Region Environmental And Transportation Efficiency) celebrated the completion of the Argo project with a ribbon cutting that brought out both the state’s U.S. senators, U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, and a host of other government and railroad officials. It’s the 32nd project to be completed of the 70 on CREATE’s agenda since the program began in 2003.

“The big problem we are addressing with each of these projects is how to move trains through the Chicagoland area more quickly,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin. “Why is that important? Well, there are two reasons that come to mind immediately. One is called supply chain. Have you heard the term? We know the inflation we are facing reflects the fact that the supply chain is not as efficient as it should be.

“The other problem we are facing is how to move trains, some with passengers, some with freight, through the same areas in an efficient way … That is one of the bottom-line accomplishments on this particular, B9 project.”

Added U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, “Our rail system carries nearly half of all intermodal rail containers, and nearly 30% of all the railcars right here. It’s really crucial that we move goods quickly and efficiently so we can keep the costs down.”

The project involved building a new double-track connection and new crossovers at the connection between the Belt Railway of Chicago and an Indiana Harbor Belt/CSX Transportation line at Argo, adjacent to Archer and 63rd streets in Summit, with additional crossovers at a control point at 71st Street, raising speeds from 10 to 25 mph.

That connection doesn’t directly involve Metra commuter trains — although its Heritage Corridor trains cross a nearby diamond and stop in Summit — but Metra’s CEO, Jim Derwinski, was as passionate as anyone in extolling its benefits during the series of speakers marking the project’s completion. He noted the huge collection of partners in the effort to make the 1,500 trains that move in Chicago each weekday — roughly 700 freights, 700 from Metra, and 100 from Amtrak — do so more smoothly

“Six Class I railroads, Metra, Amtrak, the federal government, the state of Illinois, the county of Cook, all of our municipal partners, along with IDOT” — the Illinois Department of Transportation — “it’s an amazing project,” Derwinski said. “And every time we get together for a ribbon cutting, or even a groundbreaking, it reminds us where we have come to.

“We didn’t do that in the past. That’s why this network got congested. And even though we’re here on CSX property, this project benefits Metra. It benefits Metra’s riders. Because it decongests another portion of the network today.”

A few minutes later, in a conversation with Trains News Wire, Derwinski elaborated on the Argo project’s impact.

“It relieves pressure at the areas where we cross the freight traffic,” he said. “… On the Heritage Corridor alone, we cross six different rail crossings, and on an average day, there’s 150 movements over those crossings. So to keep those commuter trains on time, it’s really about clearing the freight train from its slot at that crossing. And projects like this, speeding up the throughput, and opening up a little more capacity, are going to get the freight trains through those crossings faster.”

The freight railroads certainly welcome that additional capacity, as well.

“For the IHB, it means more fluidity in and out of Argo, but we also see it as an opportunity to increase business up the road,” said Indiana Harbor Belt General Manager John Wright.  “We have terminals up in Norpaul” — about 10 miles away, in Franklin Park, Ill. — “that we want to develop for future business, so it gives us more velocity through this area, adds another track for trains coming out of the BRC railroad, and obviously helps our partners with Metra and Amtrak in getting across the diamond. … When you can go high speed at what is basically a crossroad, it makes a big difference in the fluidity.”

12 thoughts on “Officials celebrate completion of CREATE Argo Connection project

  1. Great news.
    Google Earth is showing the progress at Forest Hills. New connections being built for the flyover.

    1. What we are seeing now is construction of the temporary realignments necessary to maintain operations while the flyover construction severs established routes.

    2. Right.
      A long way from the tower operator throwing levers!
      Railfans were welcome to help out in the 80s.

    3. When we were doubling inbound trailer trains at Forrest Hill yard the operator would give us hand signals so that we wouldn’t have to clear the plant with each move. Saved a lot of time that way.

  2. The choke point is really at CP Canal where IHB and CSX have dual diamonds. CSX still has online customers south of this on “B&O Siding” down to 82nd Street that parallels IHB.

    Heritage Corridor Metra trains come up the Joliet Sub and sometimes get blocked by tardy trains switching into Argo Yard.

    As for the TPW, the Santa Fe tried to create a Chicago bypass when they bought them and a multi-model yard was built at Remington, Indiana. (At the time) Wabash wasn’t interested to interchange at Logansport as they already went to KCMO, so ATSF tried to work a deal with Erie using a former Pennsy ROW. That died and since no one else was interested ATSF finally sold it off.

  3. We’re also paying the price for past short sided decisions. How much freight does CSX dump into Chicago that could have went via other routes that were ripped up? Whatever happened to the TP&W? Always thought that could have been a good alternative to some Chicago traffic.

    1. Short sighted? Michigan Central makes a good bike path to Joliet. While NS connects to the Burlington in Chicago, clogging up a route need for Amtrak. Every time I cross over that bike path driving down I-57, I want to scream.

      Or if driving east from Chicago into Indiana on I-80/94, you cross several abandoned railroad grades, while Amtrak’s best alternative is to cram its eastern and Michigan trains onto CSS&SB. Twenty pounds of oats crammed into a five-pound feed bag.

      Amtrak is 51 years old now …. and still trying to find a decent path into Chicago from the east and south, while one rail line after another gets torn up.

      TPW? How long did Santa Fe stay with that one? Five minutes? Six? Seven?

    2. The MC Joliet Branch was never a very heavy freight route. It looks great on a map but despite John Knieling’s column decades ago, it served it’s purpose. Mergers, deregulation and consolidation of interchanges finished off many branches like it.
      So happy to have the right-of-way intact for the very popular Plank Road Trail, 1/2 mile from my home.
      Scream all you want but the parallel CN-EJ&E was always better engineered than the MC and is doing exactly what you are wishing for.

  4. Get rid of this artifical barrier at the Mississippi and Merge East and West… Trucks cross key corridors across the nation while being subsudized. IF the Government’s so concerned about transportation emissions, and efficiency.. They would recognize this..

  5. Sounds like a great opportunity for a future Trains article on how much of CREATE has been created so far!


    1. It’s a moving target. Two developments on these pages just this week: (1) The continuing deterioration of the ex-PRR lift bridge which also carries NS freight for the Burlington. (2) Amtrak’s apparent abandonment of the long-proposed Grand Crossing connection in favor of a route east over the St Charales Air Line and down the lake on the ex-IC diesel tracks.

      Seems like everything takes a billion dollars and twenty years. So let’s keep moving!

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