More detailed information on project benefits will be presented in the Draft EIS, which will soon be available for public review.
Q. Will this project result in additional Metra service for the community?
A. At this time no additional trains are planned on the Metra lines that pass through the project area, but delays would be reduced and reliability would be improved on the existing SouthWest Service Line. Metra has also announced a new station on the Rock Island District Line near 78th Street. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has provided funding for a Transit-Oriented Design (TOD) study for the neighborhood around that location.
Q. Will more trains pass through our neighborhood each day once the project is complete?
A. Yes. Train traffic in the region will grow, whether the 75th St. CIP is constructed or not. The freight railroads predict that there will be increases in traffic in the future based on anticipated demand from shippers. In addition, trains that did not use this route in the past due to delays may use the route now. The amount and timing of train increases will depend on the economy and other factors. This potential future growth in overall train traffic is being evaluated as part of this EIS process.
Metra does not plan additional trains at this time.
Q. Will any businesses or jobs be displaced as a result of this project?
A. We don’t anticipate any displacement of local businesses.
Q. How can we find out about jobs with the 75th St. CIP or with the railroads?
A. The CREATE team is committed to helping local residents find out about job opportunities and requirements on CREATE projects and in the railroad industry. Jobs with the CREATE Program are broken down into two broad categories: 1) jobs in the railroad industry; and 2) jobs on CREATE construction projects.
The railroad industry hires regularly and is currently in hiring mode. If you are interested in applying for jobs with the railroads, go to their websites to apply for railroad jobs.
Go to www.amtrak.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Careers”
Go to www.bnsf.com and click on “Careers”
Go to www.beltrailway.com and click on “Employment”
Go to www.cn.ca, and click on “Careers"
Go to www.cpr.ca and click on “Careers”
Go to www.csx.com and click on “Working at CSX”
Go to http://metrarail.com and click on “Employment”
Go to www.nscorp.com and click on “Job Seekers”
Go to www.up.com and click on “Jobs at UP”
Construction work on the 75th St. CIP and other CREATE projects will be done by both railroad workforces and private contractors, each having their own hiring processes and requirements. To apply with the railroads, visit the websites above. Most private contractors require that their workers have union credentials. If you have a union card, talk to your local union representative about being placed with a contractor that works on the CREATE Program. To get a union card, you will need to enroll in a pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship program. Work with a local employment resource center, or visit www.illinoisworknet.com for information about training programs.
Click here for more CREATE jobs information.
Q. How will new construction impact neighborhoods?
A. A new structure connecting two rail lines and carrying passenger rail trains may be constructed in the neighborhood south of Hamilton Park. Its alignment has been selected with overwhelming public support. Union Avenue will be permanently closed at the tracks at the 75th Street corridor. The analysis of the alternatives will consider ways to minimize impacts. If a new rail connection is constructed, the design will consider ways to keep existing streets open to vehicular and pedestrian traffic to maintain community cohesion.
Q. Are any residential relocations anticipated with the proposed improvement?
A. The 75th St. CIP Project Team has made every effort to minimize the need to acquire property. It has worked closely with the community, including the Joint Community Advisory Group, to minimize this impact.
Property impacts associated with the Preferred Alternative would occur near 80th Street Junction, Union Avenue, Forest Hill Junction, and in the neighborhood south of Hamilton Park, where the structure connecting the Metra SWS Line to the RID Line would be built. The location of the structure was coordinated with neighborhood. The proposed alignment received their overwhelming support, and was selected to be part of the Preferred Alternative.
All owners of property adjacent to the project or potentially impacted by the project will receive a notice of the public meetings and the public hearing by mail.
Q. When will the property appraisal, offer and acquisition process start?
A. The property acquisition process cannot begin until after the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approves the study and signs a Record of Decision (ROD). The current schedule anticipates a ROD in late 2014. The project team also has to complete preliminary engineering plans. Land acquisition can begin during the final design phase of the project.
Q. What steps are being taken to minimize the disruption of the community and protect homes from demolition?
A. Any necessary property acquisition will follow the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 and the IDOT Land Acquisition Manual. This federal act ensures that owners are fairly compensated for the value of their property, that renters and owners receive relocation assistance, including moving expenses, and that any other costs associated with comparable replacement housing are covered. Residents would be given the chance to relocate within the community if possible. We will allow time for orderly relocation into the process.
Q. Who do I call to report an issue with the railroads in my neighborhood?
A. Whenever you have a concern about maintenance near railroad tracks or viaducts, please call 311. The City of Chicago operator will ask questions and get the information to the right people to address the problem. In the case of an emergency or trespassing on railroad property, please call 911.
Environmental and Safety Concerns
Q. If more trains pass through the neighborhood in the future, how will safety be affected, and what safety improvements will be included in the project?
A. In most of the project area, additional trains should not affect safety in the neighborhood because tracks are already separated from the street level to reduce locations where residents would come in conflict with the trains. There are multiple locations throughout the project study area where streets cross the railroad tracks (called “at-grade crossings”). As part of the CREATE Program, three of the at-grade crossings causing the most conflicts are planned to be replaced with grade separations: (1) Columbus Avenue at Maplewood Avenue (2532 W), (2) 71st Street near Bell Avenue (2232 W), and (3) 95th St. at Eggleston Avenue (431 W). We would replace the 71st Street crossing as part of this project, and the Columbus Avenue and 95th Street crossings would be replaced in a separate project.
South of 79th and Kedzie, there are three other at-grade crossings within the project limits. We anticipate only minor increases in train traffic along this section.
Q. What are the potential air and noise concerns?
A. We recognize that some residents have concerns related to air quality and noise, and analyzing the project’s impacts to air quality and noise is part of our technical investigations. Our team of experts will look at the impact to air quality, considering that train idling in the area will be greatly reduced, but the number of trains will likely increase. We will also analyze train noise due to changes in train traffic. The results of these analyses will be included in the Draft EIS, which will soon be available for public review.
Q. How much faster will the trains go as a result of the project?
A. The maximum speeds for the trains will not be increased. Trains will be able to complete their trips more quickly because they won’t have to stop and wait for other trains to pass through junctions.
Q. What about train vibration in my neighborhood?
A. Under current federal regulations, we are unable to address past vibration damage from railroad damage. We have measured existing vibration levels in the project area. We will study changes in vibration levels as a result of the project and, where possible, we will evaluate the feasibility of mitigation measures to reduce train vibration in the EIS.
Q. Will this project improve viaducts in the neighborhoods?
A. Yes. Viaduct work would be included and funded as part of the 75th St. CIP if the Preferred Alternative is selected. This work could begin once the environmental and design phases are complete (2015 at the earliest, depending on funding). The work would include street resurfacing, drainage improvements; lighting replacement, sidewalk repair, and ADA-compliant curb ramps.
Routine maintenance to viaducts is not eligible for 75th St. CIP federal funds and is considered separate from the project itself. However, in response to community concerns expressed to the 75th St. CIP Project Team, CDOT, IDOT, and the railroads have begun addressing some of the known maintenance issues through separate funding sources.
Q. Will pedestrian and bicycle access be included in the project?
A. The 75th St. CIP team is using the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process to find transportation solutions that balance the needs of the project with the concerns and values of the surrounding community. The 75th St. CIP team has heard from area residents that viaducts are generally uninviting to pedestrians and bicyclists alike. Viaduct work would be included and funded as part of the 75th St. CIP if the Preferred Alternative is selected, and these improvements will be beneficial to bicyclists. See response to preceding question for specific improvements. In addition, we will coordinate with the City of Chicago’s bike route planning efforts. Finally, the 75th St. CIP will follow the standards set forth in the Complete Streets Act. This legislation sets standards for pedestrians and bicycle access on roadway projects.
Q. When and where will construction start?
A. The Record of Decision (ROD) is anticipated to be completed in late 2014. After that, final design plans are needed and any required property will be purchased. Substantial construction could begin in 2016 depending on funding availability.
Q. Who is paying for this project?
A. Funding could come from a variety of sources, federal and state governments, railroads, Metra, and the City of Chicago.
Q. How much will this project cost?
A. We won’t develop the final budget for the project until after we select a Preferred Alternative, but a preliminary estimate is $750 million-$1 billion.
Q. Is the money available for construction?
A. Not at this time. As funding for CREATE is received from the various sources, it is allocated to projects that are ready for construction at that time. Since the 75th St. CIP will not be ready for construction for several years, funding has not yet been allocated.
Q. Will the construction project result in road closures? If so, what will be the impact on emergency vehicle access and public transportation routes?
A. For the most part, no. Most of the construction work will be on existing railroad right-of-way, not on local roadways. We do not anticipate many road closures, but there will be some that will be identified in the EIS. Prior to construction, we will develop detailed plans for motorist, pedestrian, bicycle, transit and emergency vehicle routes that may change and share these with the public.
Q. During construction, what will be the impact to businesses in the area?
A. Most businesses will not be affected by the project. The majority of construction would take place on railroad property and would not affect local businesses. At locations where construction would take place at street level, continued access to businesses would be a priority in planning the project.
Q. There are several schools, playgrounds, parks, and other community recreational facilities near the proposed construction area. Should we be concerned about increased noise and air quality during the construction project?
A. As with any construction project, there may be a temporary increase in noise and vehicle emissions at certain times at locations where construction of the rail improvements is taking place. As part of the EIS process, we will evaluate potential construction impacts and discuss them with the community.
Contractors will be responsible for complying with all applicable federal, state and local statutes, ordinances, and directives with respect to eliminating excessive noise and pollution of air during construction. These rules are intended to reduce the noise from heavy construction equipment and control the dust, smoke, and fumes from construction equipment and other worksite operations. The Chicago Department of Environment’s website states, “The Environmental Noise Ordinance strives to set a balance between the needs of daytime productivity and nighttime tranquility, and between reasonable and unreasonable noise.” These ordinances must be followed unless the contractor has secured a special waiver from the City of Chicago. For more information, visit the Chicago Department of Environment’s website at www.cityofchicago.org/environment or call 311.
Q. How can I see a copy of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)?
A. A copy of the signed DEIS and FEIS will be available at public libraries, on this web site (www.75thcip.org), the CREATE Program website (www.createprogram.org) and the IDOT web site (www.dot.il.gov/desenv/env.html). In addition, information on key issues and decisions will be made available. Interested stakeholders and residents can join the mailing list to receive project announcements and invitations to public meetings. Everyone on the mailing list will be informed when the study documents are available for review and comment.
Q. What opportunities will the public have in determining the preferred alternative?
A. The project team has presented technical information at public meetings and solicited feedback, and will continue to do so throughout the EIS process. The 75th St. CIP team is committed to being inclusive, open-minded, and transparent through this process. The project team views public involvement as a key component of this study and is committed to providing opportunities for the public and key stakeholders to have input into the process of identifying the problems, developing solutions to those problems, and providing input on the preferred alternative.
Q. Where can contractors get information about bidding on this project?
A. There is currently no construction funding available for this project, which is several years away. However, information about all current CREATE bid opportunities can be found on the CREATE website at www.createprogram.org/business.htm.
Q. What agencies are involved in this project?
A. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are the lead government agencies for this project and their leads are listed below. Other CREATE partners include the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the American Association of Railroads (AAR), and Metra.