Illinois lawmakers said today they will fight a move by Republicans in the U.S. House to scrap funding for a key railroad improvement project designed to increase capacity and eliminate a notorious freight and passenger train bottleneck on Chicago's South Side.
Last year the Federal Railroad Administration awarded Illinois $133 million to help build the Englewood Flyover, which is a bridge that would end a pinch point affecting almost 80 Metra Rock Island District trains and about 60 freight and Amtrak trains each day. The bridge would carry Metra trains over the Norfolk Southern tracks that also serve Amtrak trains at 63rd and State Streets in the Englewood neighborhood.
Separating the tracks is also a step toward reducing delays on Metra’s Southwest Service line and advancing the state's plans to bring higher-speed Amtrak trains to the Chicago area, officials said.
The flyover bridge is part of the CREATE program to modernize rail infrastructure in Illinois, in the process adding thousands of jobs and producing up to $2 billion in economy activity annually in the Chicago area, officials said.
But in a budget-cutting move, House Republicans have moved to kill the $133 million in stimulus funding for the project. The cut is part of $6.8 billion in transportation spending reductions hitting the states--money that the Obama administration has already promised, according to lawmakers from Illinois.
"It's an unprecedented move by the House Republicans,'' said Christina Angarola, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D., Ill. "The Congressional Research Service tells us this is the first time one body of Congress has voted to take away from a project funding the federal government has already committed to give.''
Several other projects in Illinios have also been affected, including planned Amtrak service to Moline, Angarola said.
Durbin and U.S. Reps Dan Lipinski and Bobby Rush, both Chicago Democrats, were scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday morning to oppose the House GOP plan. They said the Englewood Flyover would create about 1,450 jobs.Copyright © 2015, CT Now