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 May 2021, 31 CREATE projects have been completed, with four more projects under construction and 16 in design phases.
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 planning and environmental design, completed between 2010-2014. The project team weighed this input carefully when making decisions about the project. Stakeholder input helped the project team better understand how the project might affect the community, which in turn helped the project team make more informed decisions. Viaduct and community mobility improvements were included in the project in part because of direct community input in support of these improvements.
During Phase I, we had six Community Advisory Group Meetings, three Community Meetings, six Public Meetings and one Public Hearing in October 2014; 140 people attended the Public Hearing and 89 comments received responses. Additional meetings with local elected officials took place throughout the Phase I planning process.
In Phase II, the Community Advisory Group has met three times and there was a public open house in October 2019.
Some examples of how public input influenced the project include:
- Public input led the team to include community mobility and viaduct improvements in the Purpose and Need Statement, which was an important screening criterion for determining improvements included in the project.
- Potential community impacts, including right-of-way acquisitions, were important screening criteria for the development of the project scope.
- Community input regarding mitigation measures related to community mobility improvements was gathered and incorporated into the final project.
- Noise walls, which mitigate noise generated by moving trains, were included in the project based on positive responses received from community residents that would most benefit from the noise walls.
- Location of the temporary tracks for the Forest Hill Flyover, which was a concern for residents to the east of the tracks on 76th Place, 77th St., and Hamilton Ave. so the project team reassessed and the temporary tracks will now be located on the west side of the current North-South CSX tracks, further from the homes that are along Hamilton Avenue between 75th Street and 79th.
- The 75th St. CIP team sought public input on community preferences for how the bridge structure will look as part of the final design for the Forest Hill Flyover (P3) and 71st Street Grade Separation(GS19). Between February 23 and March 15, 2021, community members were show three options for the "treatments" and asked to vote on which one they thought will look best in their community. 90 votes were returned during two webinars, via voicemail (which was then inputted into the online survey), through a link on the project website's homepage and returned to aldermen's office. What the team learned about the community's preference will be reflected in the treatment for the new bridge structure.
This project will continue to follow IDOT's Context Sensitive Solutions process to ensure stakeholder input during Phase II and Phase III. The CREATE partners developed a Phase II and Phase III Stakeholder Involvement Plan (SIP) that outlines the scope and timing 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 design elements and construction activities affecting the surrounding communities. The SIP can be found on the project website, https://www.75thcip.org/get_involved/stakeholder.
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, environmental, and educational 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.
- Community Mobility Improvements - During the Phase 1 Study (2010-2014), elected officials and community advisory group (CAG) members cited local mobility problems as a community concern. Community mobility improvements became a component of the project's Purpose and Need in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Community mobility improvements outlined as mitigation measures in the FEIS include street repairs under viaducts, sidewalk and curb repairs, street repaving, tree planting, bus stop and pedestrian safety improvements. These improvements are in addition to the 36 viaducts receiving structural improvement through this project.
- 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 train passenger 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.
Train traffic in the region is expected to grow whether the 75th St. CIP is constructed or not. The freight railroads predict increases in rail traffic based on anticipated demand from shippers. In addition, trains that did not use this route in the past due to delays may use it after the 75th St. CIP is fully constructed. The growth of train volumes will depend on the economy and other factors. This potential future growth in train traffic was evaluated as part of the 75th Street CIP EIS.
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 property, except for a small parcel of city-owned property along the track.
For the Metra Rock Island Connection (P2), the Phase I study identified one church and 25 residential units that would need to be acquired. The 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 final design will determine the final list of properties that will need to be acquired. Those impacted will be contacted by the project team.
The project team will follow the 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 the cost of comparable
replacement housing is covered.
Residents will be given the chance to relocate within the community if possible and we will build time for orderly relocation into the process. It may be possible to relocate houses to existing vacant sites in the neighborhood. We will also provide mortgage assistance for displaced 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.
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.
Issues of vibrations from yard operations outside the project should be directed to the railroads operating the yards.
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 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.
The CREATE partners did not receive enough funding through this grant to complete construction of the entire project. However, the CREATE partners continue to seek funding to complete the 75th St. CIP. The INFRA grant will fund design for all four projects (EW2, P2, P3, GS19) and construction for the Forest Hill Flyover and 71st St. Grade Separation (P3/GS19).
Some of the community benefits and mitigation measures will be implemented along with P3/GS19, while others will not be implemented until construction funding of the remaining projects 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 doing as much of the project as can be completed with existing resources. The projects have to be phased in a certain way for feasibility of construction, which determines which projects will move forward first. The CREATE partners are committed to seeking additional funds for construction of the Metra Rock Island Connection (P2), adding commuter tracks and realigning tracks (EW2) and implementing the community benefits and mitigation measures to complete the 75th St. CIP.
Design began in 2019 on the Forest Hill Flyover and 71st St. Grade Separation (P3/GS19) and is expected to finish in 2021. Design will begin in 2020 for Rock Island Connection (P2) and Belt Junction and 80th Street Junction Replacements (EW2) and end in 2022. Construction for the funded portions of the 75th St. CIP will begin with temporary tracks at Forest Hill Junction (P3) in 2020 and be completed in 2023. Full construction for Forest Hill Junction and 71st St. Grade Separation (P3/GS19) begins in 2021 and will be completed in 2024. Construction of community mobility and viaduct improvements are anticipated to begin in 2021. Stakeholder involvement and public outreach 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 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.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the CREATE partners continue to ensure that local businesses are aware of networking opportunities through a virtual networking process. The project team and railroads have hosted pre-proposal meetings online, and posted contact information for event attendees to allow for open networking among the prime contractors and DBE firms.
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.
A list of all 75th St. CIP contractors including Disadvantaged Business Enterprises can be found on www.75thcip.org/doing_business/.
There will be additional design, engineering, construction and supplier opportunities on the 75th St. CIP. DBE firms 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 email notifications and are also made through newspapers.
Given precautions instituted by most organizations and recommendations by federal, state and local government regarding COVID-19, the CREATE partners will host meetings via web conference, conference calls or other remote meeting support to continue to move the CREATE Program forward.
The CREATE partners made multiple visits to Joplin Elementary School, Randolph Elementary School and Barton Elementary School in the project area, totaling 57 hours of staff time spent engaging the students on engineering and transportation topics during the 2019/2020 school year, before remote learning began. The project team also hosted a "demonstration day" in December 2019 at Randolph Elementary School that reached 220 students. During this successful event for kindergarten through third grade students, representatives from Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways (CCDOTH), WSP, and Metro Strategies walked students through three activity stations: engineering structures, road-rail crossing design and a railroad safety/artistic expression.
In 2019, the CREATE Program committed $200,000 for education grants to assist students with science and engineering activities through schools and community programs.
Norfolk Southern donated an additional $40,000 to Chicago Public Library Foundation programs in the 75th St. CIP project area, including $15,000 to Teacher In the Library and $25,000 to CyberNavigators. With this funding, the CREATE partners are working with the libraries, Chicago Public Schools, the Museum of Science and Industry, and Daley College to provide enrichment programs in the 75th St. CIP communities starting in 2020.
Additional activities are planned to engage local students throughout the project.