Englewood Flyover to take aim at rail congestion

October 10, 2011

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A project aimed with halting one of the region’s worst rail logjams broke ground Monday on Chicago’s South Side.

The so-called Englewood Flyover will cost $133 million. Organizers hope it will ease congestion near 63rd and State Street, an area that sees an average of 14 Amtrak, 78 Metra and 46 freight trains battle for space each day.

The Englewood Flyover will build a bridge to carry the three Metra Rock Island District Line tracks over the four Norfolk-Southern freight tracks. The bridge — to be completed by 2014 — will also allow for expanded Amtrak service around the Midwest.

Several politicians gathered near the flyover site on Monday morning. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the project will create 1,500 jobs.

“What does it mean when freight traffic and passenger traffic can move through this city more quickly? More jobs. Not just the jobs in building this project but the reputation of Illinois as the crossroads of the nation,” Durbin said.

The funding sources include $126 million from the federal government and more than $6 million from the state’s Illinois Jobs Now program. The Englewood Flyover is also part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE,) an effort that is supposed to modernize local rail operations, reduce harmful emissions and ease highway congestion.

Nearby resident Bob Israel, a union laborer, showed up at the groundbreaking with skepticism.

“It’s just a dog-and-pony show — trust me,” Israel said.

“We’ve been hearing about this CREATE program for 10-15 years. They say they’re going to hire from the community but I’ve been hearing this for years,” Israel said. He likened it to the Dan Ryan Expressway project, which Israel said didn’t do a good job of community hiring.

At the press conference, Israel asked Quinn who would ensure that the Englewood Flyover project would employ community residents.

Quinn didn’t give an answer.