Sunday, February 11, 2018

Belt Junction (BRC vs Metra vs NS) and CREATE's 75th Street Corridor Project

The 80th Street Junction has been added to the project scope since I studied CREATE in 2014. I don't know what the problem is and how it is supposed to be fixed.

IDOT from Overview
Belt Junction is where freight (BRC+NS/Wabash) and passenger (Metra/Wabash) trains are funneled down to two tracks along the 75th Street Corridor over Loomis Blvd. This choke point plus the grade crossing of CSX+Amtrak/B&OCT vs Metra+NS+BRC at Forest Hill Junction is currently the worst source of rail congestion in Chicago now that the CREATE P1 Project has been completed. CREATE has a plan to separate the traffic along the 75th Street corridor that defines four projects. --- P2, P3, EW2, GS19. It has even finished Phase I --- Preliminary (30%) Design and issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision. The problem is that all four projects should be done at once, and their combined cost is about a billion dollars. In this age when both state and the federal infrastructure "experts" are diverting rail improvement funding to more highway projects, the only current activity to fix this congestion seems to be a web page.

When I first studied CREATE in 2014, they had separate descriptions of the four projects. But I see that now all four projects link to the same description. From memory, they get the CSX and Amtrak traffic out of the way by elevating the B&OCT tracks over 71st Street and the east/west corridor (BRC+Metra+NS). This removes the Forest Hill Junction grade crossing. (Now that CSX has bought the former GTW route from CN, I wonder if they route their freights up through Hayford Junction instead of Forest Hill.) They separate Metra and freight traffic by building another track dedicated to commuter service through the corridor and a bridge at the east end that not only will take the commuter trains over the freight trains, but that flyover will connect the new commuter track to the Rock Island route to LaSalle Station rather than the historic Wabash+C&WI route to Union Station. Advantageously (the first patent lawyer I worked with at Bell Labs loved that word), the new commuter flyover bridge will relieve projected overcrowding at Union Station by utilizing excess capacity at the LaSalle Station.

Update: State gets $132 million federal grant to reduce South Side railroad delays "The federal grant is being matched by $111 million from the Illinois Department of Transportation, $116 million from the American Association of Railroads, $78 million from Cook County, $23 million from Metra, $9 million from the city of Chicago and $5 million from Amtrak."

CREATE 75th Street: $132 million from USDOT (source)
Jon Roma I may sound like a shill for the CREATE project, but I'll respond to the naysayers by saying that CREATE is an excellent example of public/private partnership. In addition to taxpayer funding from state and federal sources, the AAR contributes funds, as do individual railroads.

This is as it should be: Both the public and the railroads benefit immensely from making rail traffic around Chicago fluid. One tangible public benefit is the removal of delays associated with street crossings at grade; another is removal of delays at places like Englewood (NS/Metra Rock Island) where the crossing is now a grade separation. There are other less tangible public benefits as well.

IDOT posted
The 75th Street corridor serves more than 2 million freight trains annually and more than 30 Metra trains and 10 Amtrak trains daily. A $474 million investment in one of the country’s most complex segments of railroad will unlock an estimated $3.8 billion in economic benefit. We're proud to be a partner on this project. #CREATE Chicago Department of TransportationCook County Government #amtrak #metra #cookcounty Association of American Railroads
Learn more:
[This is only half of the $1 billion needed, so the CSX flyover should get done, but not the Metra flyover to the Rock Island route into La Salle Station. The CSX flyover is the first time I can think of that freight trains will have to climb a flyover. Most flyovers are for commuter trains which have a lot more horsepower per car so that they can accelerate quickly out of the station stops.]
The Blackhawk Railway Historical Society posted
There was a ceremony kicking off the CREATE project on the 75th Street corridor, and they posed some trains for photos...
Gary Talsky (Metra and BRC look like they are fouling diamonds)
David Daruszka 4 out of 5 engineers in this picture were subsequently pulled out of service for violating signal rules.
Michael Riha They quickly found a dispatcher to blame this on...
Bill Grenchik Sorry your shipment was late. We had a photo shoot to do.
Norfolk Southern shared Railway Age post
Left to right: AAR President and CEO Ed Hamberger, Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle, USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Photo by Mark Llanuza.
A much needed half-billion dollar grant gets a lot of press.
David Daruszka shared
Dean Mastoras from Trains
According to news releases, Illinois taxpayers will pay $111 million of the project's tab, freight railroads will pay $116 milllion; the City of Chicago, $9 million; Cook County, Ill., $78 million; Metra and Amtrak, $28 million; and the U.S. Department of Transportation, $132 million.
safe_image for ProgressiveRailroading
At a ceremonial groundbreaking Oct. 1 at the site of the planned Forest Hill Flyover, five locomotives were positioned at the Belt Junction to represent some of the railroads that use the busy crossovers each day: CSX, NS, UP, BRC and Metra.

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