The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program is a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership to improve the rail and roadway transportation network within the Chicago region through the completion of 70 interrelated infrastructure projects. As of October 2019, 30 CREATE projects have been completed, with four more projects under construction and 17 in design.
The 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project (75th St. CIP) is a rail and roadway improvement project located on the southwest side of the city of Chicago, approximately bounded by Pulaski Road, 63rd Street, I-94 and 103rd Street.
The 75th St. CIP will eliminate the most congested rail chokepoint in the region, Belt Junction, where 32 commuter and passenger (Metra, Amtrak) trains and 98 freight trains per day cross each other's path. This directly impacts the freight railroads CSX, UP, NS, CP and BRC. Currently, only one or two trains can pass through each of these chokepoints at any given time. By physically separating these crossings, this project will allow trains to pass through without delays, eliminating the chokepoints that today back up trains for miles beyond the project area and into many other Chicago neighborhoods.
The 75th St. CIP will reduce road-rail crossing conflicts by eliminating the at-grade crossing at 71st Street under the north-south CSX tracks between Hamilton Avenue and Bell Avenue, north of Forest Hill Junction. This will eliminate nearly 3.5 hours of daily road closure, improve safety and relieve traffic on parallel streets. The 75th St. CIP will improve rail passenger service reliability with faster and more reliable service on the Metra SouthWest Service (SWS) line and Amtrak Cardinal service. It will reduce community mobility problems by providing major improvements at viaducts in the project area as well as improved mobility, safety and security for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Additional community mobility improvements will also be implemented.
The community's input was factored in throughout the project's Phase I environmental study and preliminary design, which was completed during 2010-2014. The project team used the advice of the community when making decisions about the project. Stakeholder input helped the project team better understand how the project might affect the community, which in turn informed decisions about community-based improvements that could be included in the overall project. For example, viaduct and community mobility improvements are now included in the project in large part because of direct community input in support of these types of improvements.
During Phase I, there were six Community Advisory Group Meetings, three Community Meetings, six Public Meetings and a formal Public Hearing held in October 2014; 140 people attended the Public Hearing and 89 comments were received and responded to. Additional meetings with local elected officials took place throughout the Phase I planning process.
Public input has so far influenced the project in numerous ways, including:
- Public input led to making community mobility and viaduct improvements part of the Purpose and Need Statement, which was an important factor in determining improvements that would be included in the project.
- Potential community impacts, such as the need for land acquisition, were important screening criteria for developing the project scope.
- Community input determined which community mobility improvements should be considered to help mitigate potential project impacts (i.e., street repaving, fixing sidewalks, new street trees, new curb ramps, etc.).
- Noise walls, which lessen noise generated by moving trains, were included in the project based on input from affected community residents.
The Community Advisory Group has been re-engaged for Phases II/III of the 75th St. CIP. The Community Advisory Group met on February 13, 2019 and September 10, 2019. A public open house was held on October 30, 2019.
In summer and fall 2019, the Chicago Department of Transportation solicited input from aldermen, Community Advisory Group members and the public to prioritize a list of potential community mobility improvements within a quarter mile of the Forest Hill Flyover (P3) and 71st Street Grade Separation (GS19) project areas, as these projects are fully funded for final design and construction. In the future, potential community mobility improvements will be identified with input from the community for the Belt Junction and 80th Street Junction Replacements (EW2) and Rock Island Connection (P2) project areas, which are only funded for design at this time.
The project will continue to use the Illinois Department of Transportation's Context Sensitive Solutions process to ensure stakeholder input during Phase II (final design) and Phase III (construction). The CREATE partners have developed a Phase II and Phase III Stakeholder Involvement Plan (SIP) that outlines the expected scope and sequencing of 75th St. CIP stakeholder involvement activities. The SIP ensures coordination on the commitments made by the CREATE partners at the end of Phase I, as well as stakeholder input on the upcoming decisions regarding detailed design elements and construction activities affecting the nearby surrounding communities. View the Stakeholder Involvement Plan.
A copy of the Final EIS and Record of Decision (ROD) is available on this website. Interested stakeholders and residents can join the mailing list to receive project announcements and invitations to any future public meetings.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Illinois Department of Transportation are the lead government agencies for this project. Other CREATE partners directly involved in the 75th St. CIP include the Chicago Department of Transportation, Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways, the Association of American Railroads, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, Belt Railway of Chicago and Metra.
There will be transportation, economic and environmental benefits for the surrounding communities.
- Transportation - The 75th St. CIP will elevate the CSX railroad over 71st Street just east of Bell Avenue (alleviating congestion and delays), improve other existing viaducts that are in need of repair and provide community mobility improvements (such as street repaving, repairing sidewalks and curbs, replacing street trees, and implementing pedestrian safety measures, etc.) to further enhance safety and accessibility within the nearby communities.
- Economic - The 75th St. CIP will provide economic benefits by supporting education programs in the communities, implementing job training programs and creating and promoting contracting opportunities for certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs).
- Environmental - By removing conflicts between freight and passenger trains and eliminating the grade crossing at 71st Street, the 75th St. CIP will eliminate 18,500 annual hours of delay; increase train reliability, speed and capacity; and eliminate congestion, delays and idling for motorists. This will result in air quality and energy improvements. However, additional train traffic and increased train speeds in the future may result in noise impacts. As a result, noise mitigation and landscaping improvements will be designed and constructed to mitigate visual impacts and enhance parks and vacant properties.
Yes. Train traffic in the region is expected to grow whether or not the 75th St. CIP is constructed. However, the 75th St. CIP will reduce the negative impacts of this increased railroad activity on the surrounding communities. The amount and timing of increased freight rail traffic depends upon demand from shippers, which is based on regional and national economic growth and other factors. This potential future growth in overall train traffic was evaluated as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, which is available for review on this website.
At the current time, Metra does not have plans to operate additional commuter trains along their part of the corridor, although the planned track improvements will allow future Metra and freight trains to pass through at the same time, rather than freight trains having to sit and idle while waiting for Metra as they do today.
Yes. Union Avenue will be permanently closed at the tracks along the 75th Street corridor. This is a location where many tracks will cross in the future, and keeping Union Avenue open would require a long underpass. During the Phase I part of this project's design, several alternatives were considered at this location, including both keeping the street open and closing it. Based on community input it was determined that closing the underpass at this location would be the preferred option.
No other streets will be permanently closed as a result of this project, although there may be some temporary street closures during the construction phase. Details on construction impacts will be prepared and discussed as part of the community outreach process in the upcoming years.
The Forest Hill Flyover (P3) does not require the acquisition of any privately owned property.
For the future Metra Rock Island Connection (P2), the Phase I study identified one church and 25 residences that would need to be acquired. These properties are primarily located south of Hamilton Park between 75th Street and Parnell Avenue and 74th Street and Normal Avenue. The Phase I study also identified some residential properties near Union Avenue and vacant industrial properties near 80th Street Junction for acquisition.
The Phase II final design process will determine the final list of properties that will need to be acquired, and those impacted will be contacted by the project team to negotiate terms of sale and relocation.
The project team will follow the processes set out in the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, as amended. This Act ensures owners are fairly compensated for the value of their property, renters and owners receive relocation assistance including moving expenses, and that the cost of comparable replacement housing is covered. Residents will be given the chance to relocate within the community if possible and the project team will build time for orderly relocation into the process. It may be possible to relocate houses to existing vacant sites in the neighborhood. The project will also provide mortgage assistance for affected homeowners whose mortgage loan is higher than the fair market value of the property.
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. You may also refer to the Rail and City of Chicago Contact Information fact sheet(Opens in a new window). In the case of an emergency or trespassing on railroad property, please call 911.
Environmental and Safety
In most of the project area, additional trains will not affect traffic safety in the neighborhood because the railroad tracks are already separated from the street level. However, there are some locations in the project study area where streets directly cross the railroad tracks (called "at-grade crossings").
As part of the CREATE Program, three at-grade crossings will be replaced with grade separations:
(1) 71st Street at the CSX tracks near Bell Avenue (2200 W)
(2) Columbus Avenue at the BRC tracks near Maplewood Avenue (2550 W)
(3) 95th Street at the Union Pacific tracks near Eggleston Avenue (400 W)
The 71st Street road-rail crossing will be grade separated as part of the 75th St. CIP. The Columbus Avenue and 95th Street crossings will be grade separated by other CREATE projects that are proceeding concurrently with 75th St. CIP. The Columbus Avenue Grade Separation (GS11) has begun Phase I design and environmental review and is funded for construction. The 95th Street Grade Separation (GS21a) has also begun Phase I design and environmental review, but funding for construction has not yet been secured. For more information on the Columbus Avenue project please visit www.columbusbrc.org/(Opens in a new window) and for more information on the 95th Street project visit www.95thuprr.com(Opens in a new window).
Southwest of 79th Street and Kedzie Avenue, there are three other at-grade crossings within the project limits. The tracks at these crossings are used only by Metra commuter trains, and no increases in future train traffic are expected there due to the 75th St. CIP.
Based on that, noise mitigation measures will be designed and implemented to reduce noise impacts. The CREATE partners studied noise, vibration and visual impacts of the 75th St. CIP during the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)(Opens in a new window) process. Based on that, noise mitigation measures will be designed and implemented to reduce noise impacts.
The Forest Hill Junction (P3) component of the 75th St. CIP will build a bridge to carry north-south CSX railroad tracks above east-west tracks used by Norfolk Southern, BRC and Metra. These tracks currently cross each other at the same level, and sound is generated every time train wheels cross over the gaps in the rails at the crossing. The noise from this crossing will be eliminated when the new flyover structure is in place.
Noise barriers are expected to be implemented as part of the future Belt Junction (EW2) component of the 75th St. CIP. Currently there is funding in place only to design project EW2, not yet to build it. As such, the design of the noise barriers will take place from Spring 2019 through Fall 2021, and construction of the noise barriers will not begin until funding is secured for project EW2. For more information on project funding, see the response to the question "Why is this project happening now?" below.
The maximum speeds for the trains will not be increased by this project. However, trains will be able to complete their trips more quickly because they will not have to stop and wait for other trains to pass through junctions.
Trains do create vibration, and if you live close enough to the tracks, you can probably feel it. However, there is a very large difference between the point at which a human feels vibration and the point at which vibration can cause damage to even the most fragile structures.
The CREATE partners have measured vibration in the study area and found that some residences will experience an increase in vibration levels. Railroad maintenance techniques can reduce vibration impacts but will not eliminate this impact; therefore, offsetting benefits will be implemented in the community.
Questions regarding vibrations from ongoing railroad yard operations near the project area should be directed to the railroad operating the yard.
Yes. Viaduct improvement work is included as part of the 75th St. CIP. Some of the work will include street resurfacing, drainage improvements, lighting replacement, sidewalk repair and ADA-compliant curb ramps. The project team will engage community members for additional input on where and when these improvements will be made. In future stages of the 75th St. CIP, some viaduct structures over city streets will also be replaced or rehabilitated. These structural improvements will be designed now but built in the future when additional funding is secured.
Routine maintenance to viaduct structures 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, the railroads have begun addressing some of the known maintenance issues through separate funding sources. If you see viaduct maintenance problems, call 311 and the dispatcher will direct your comment to the appropriate point of contact to address the problem. If you see an emergency at a viaduct, call 911. Maintenance of the viaduct structure is the responsibility of the owner railroad. Road and sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the City of Chicago in most cases, but sometimes the State of Illinois (Halsted Street, for example is a state road) or Cook County has jurisdiction. Drainage problems are the responsibility of the entity that has jurisdiction over the street, unless seepage is coming from the viaduct structure. Then, it is the responsibility of the owner railroad. The City of Chicago is responsible for viaduct lighting.
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 and values of the surrounding community. During the Phase I process, residents, elected officials and Community Advisory Group members told the project team that poor street conditions at viaducts are a concern for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists, and make it more difficult to get around. Improvements to the streets under viaducts are included and will be funded as part of the 75th St. CIP. These improvements will be beneficial to pedestrians and bicyclists as well as motorists. In addition to improvements at viaducts, other local improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists are being analyzed as part of this project. The project team will engage community members for additional input on how and where to make these improvements.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) were completed in 2014. Since then, the CREATE partners have sought funding to finish the project's design and construction. In June 2018, the CREATE partners received a $132 million grant through the federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program for the 75th St. CIP. This funding complemented $342 million in commitments from the railroads, Illinois Department of Transportation, Cook County and Chicago Department of Transportation and will be sufficient to complete both design and construction for the first half of the 75th St. CIP (P3 and GS19) as well as design for the second half of the 75th St. CIP (P2 and EW2). While this funded work is taking place, the CREATE partners continue to seek the remaining funding needed to build the entire 75th St. CIP. Some of the community mobility improvements and mitigation measures will be implemented along with the construction of P3 and GS19, while others will be implemented when additional funding is identified and construction of the remaining projects (P2 and EW2) occurs.
The $132 million federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) award complements $111 million from the Illinois Department of Transportation, $116 million from the Association of American Railroads, $78 million from Cook County, $23 million from Metra, $9 million from the City of Chicago and $5 million from Amtrak for a total investment of $474 million.
The non-federal funding contributions from public and private sources were negotiated amongst the CREATE partners prior to the 2017 grant application for federal INFRA funds. The Illinois Department of Transportation, Cook County and Chicago Department of Transportation are contributing to the project's implementation as the 75th St. CIP will provide public benefits for the regional economy, nearby neighborhoods, commuters and the environment.
The CREATE partners are completing as much of the project as they can with existing resources. Due to construction and operations constraints, the projects must be built in sequence with the Forest Hill Flyover and 71st Street Grade Separation (P3 and GS19) being constructed first and the Rock Island Connection and Belt Junction and 80th Street Junction Replacements (P2 and EW2) following. The CREATE partners are committed to seeking the remaining additional funds needed for construction of projects P2 and EW2, as well as implementation of the remaining community mobility improvements and mitigation measures to complete the 75th St. CIP.
Design will start on the Forest Hill Flyover (P3) and 71st Street Grade Separation (GS19) in 2019 and in 2020 for the Rock Island Connection (P2) and Belt Junction and 80th Street Junction Replacements (EW2). Design is expected to be completed in 2021 for the Forest Hill Flyover (P3) and 71st Street Grade Separation (GS19) and in 2022 for the Rock Island Connection (P2) and Belt Junction and 80th Street Junction Replacements (EW2). Construction for the funded portions of the 75th St. CIP are expected to begin with temporary track construction for the Forest Hill Flyover (P3) from 2020 through 2021. Full construction of the final Forest Hill Flyover (P3) and 71st Street Grade Separation (GS19) is expected to begin in 2022 and be completed in 2024. Stakeholder involvement, public outreach and community mobility and viaduct improvements will occur throughout the project timeline.
Most of the construction work will be on existing railroad property, not local roadways. Major road closures are not expected, but there will be some temporary impacts to street access at and near the affected railroad tracks during construction. Prior to construction, the project team will develop detailed traffic plans and determine emergency vehicle access routes. Emergency vehicles and buses will be re-routed when necessary following these plans. The 75th St. CIP project team is committed to providing early and timely information to the public and will utilize several methods to communicate construction schedules and impacts as they are known. 75th St. CIP communities and local aldermen will be regularly informed of construction schedules and updates.
Most businesses will not be affected by the project. The majority of construction will take place on railroad property and will not directly affect local businesses. At locations where construction is necessary at street level, maintaining continued access to businesses will be a priority in planning the project.
As with any construction project, there may be a temporary increase in noise and emissions at certain times at locations where construction of the planned improvements is taking place. As part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, potential construction impacts were evaluated. The results of these analyses are included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Contractors will be responsible to comply with all applicable federal, state and local statutes, ordinances and directives with respect to managing and mitigating noise and air pollution during construction. The intent of these rules is to reduce the noise from heavy construction equipment and control the dust, smoke, fumes, rodent activity and the like 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(Opens in a new window) or call 311.
Education, Local Jobs and Contracting
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 directly. If you or someone you know are interested in applying for jobs with the railroads, go to the individual websites linked below to apply for railroad jobs.
|Amtrak||Go to www.amtrak.com(Opens in a new window) and scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Careers"|
|BNSF||Go to www.bnsf.com(Opens in a new window) and click on "Work at BNSF"|
|BRC||Go to www.beltrailway.com(Opens in a new window) and click on "Employment"|
|CN||Go to www.cn.ca(Opens in a new window) and click on "Careers"|
|Canadian Pacific||Go to www.cpr.ca(Opens in a new window) and click on "Careers"|
|CSX Corporation||Go to www.csx.com(Opens in a new window) and click on "Working at CSX"|
|Metra||Go to http://metrarail.com(Opens in a new window) and click on "Careers"|
|Norfolk Southern||Go to www.nscorp.com(Opens in a new window) and click on "Work at NS"|
|Union Pacific||Go to www.up.com(Opens in a new window) and click on "Careers"|
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(Opens in a new window) for information about training programs.
There will be construction job opportunities for individuals available on the 75th St. CIP, including carpentry, concrete framing, welding and more. The CREATE partners will fund some on-the-job training on 75th St. CIP construction projects for entry-level individuals who have graduated from the Illinois Department of Transportation's Highway Construction Careers Training Program (HCCTP) at Dawson Technical Institute of Kennedy-King College. Upon completion of the 16-week training program, participants will be in an approved pool of candidates considered for construction jobs. View more information on the training program(Opens in a new window). In addition to the HCCTP program, the CREATE partners will develop a workforce outreach and development program to assist community members to develop skills that can go beyond the 75th St. CIP.
Efforts have and will continue to be made to engage and inform Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) of design and construction contracting opportunities for the 75th St. CIP. Get On Board, a business-to-business networking event was held on January 24, 2019 at Kennedy-King College to kick off Phases II and III. A similar event will be held in late 2020 or early 2021. In addition, for each professional services contract and construction bid opportunity on 75th St. CIP projects, a prime consultant/DBE networking session will accompany each mandatory pre-bid meeting. Goals for DBE participation on each design and construction package will be set in accordance to federal and state requirements. The CREATE partners will work with local associations to ensure local businesses are aware of these networking opportunities, and that these events are located within or adjacent to the project area.
Information about all current CREATE bid opportunities can be found on the CREATE website(Opens in a new window). To receive an email notification when a new bid solicitation is opened, sign up for CREATE Program procurement notifications(Opens in a new window). Be sure to select the procurement list. Additional information about doing business with CREATE on the 75th St. CIP is available on this project website in the doing business section.
The Parsons team, which includes eight Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), will provide professional design services for the Forest Hill Flyover (P3) and the 71st Street Grade Separation (GS19). Alfred Benesch & Co. and TranSystems, along with a team that includes eight DBEs, will provide program management and track design services for a portion of EW2 (Belt Junction and 80th Street Junction Replacements).
There will be additional design, engineering, construction and supplier opportunities on the 75th St. CIP. Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) are encouraged to register through the CREATE website for email invitations to respond to professional services bid opportunities for contracted work. All CREATE Program partner procurements will be sent through the CREATE procurement notification email. Notifications are also made through newspapers.
In order to prepare the youth in the community for future careers, the CREATE partners are supporting education programs in the community to encourage students' interest in engineering and technical fields. Since fall of 2019, professionals working on the 75th St. CIP have visited community schools to share career insights and technical project information with local students, as well as host field trips and expose high school students to the engineering challenges and skills required for large transportation infrastructure projects like the 75th St. CIP. More than a dozen internship positions for young adults are being planned for summer 2020. In addition, the CREATE partners committed $240,000 to ensure the local community has access to skill building programs.