Englewood Flyover Deal Set to be Signed Today
Crain's Chicago Business
June 22, 2011
By Greg Hinz
It looks like the last legal hurdle has been cleared for a critical piece of the rail decongestion work on the South Side known as the Englewood Flyover.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski's office reports that the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Norfolk Southern railway are expected to sign a contract today for the $133-million flyover, which will bridge an often horrific bottleneck centered at 63rd and State streets.
Dozens of freight, commuter and Amtrak trains are delayed there daily because all of the tracks are at street level. And while street traffic has been diverted, the congestion doesn't help anyone.
The Federal Railroad Administration last year approved $133 million to build a 2,000-foot-long bridge for Norfolk Southern tracks over Metra Rock Island District Line tracks. But the job is complicated, and U.S. House Republicans tried to snatch the money back in federal budget wars earlier this year.
Illinois' congressional delegation — notably Mr. Lipinski and U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. — were able to hang onto the money. But until it's actually spent, the project is vulnerable.
Which leads to today's news. If the contract really is signed today, the money will be obligated and presumably isolated from congressional budget cutters. And that ought to please Mr. Lipinski, who behind the scenes has pushed the parties pretty hard to get the contract signed.
Norfolk Southern declined to comment. The state didn't immediately get back to me.
But Mr. Lipinski's office says it's sure of its facts, and that the project will create 1,450 jobs and save unaccountable hours of time.
The Englewood Flyover is part of a much larger project known as Create, designed to shore up Chicago's position as the intermodal freight capital of North America by speeding trains through the city that often get tied up for many hours.
* * * 3:20 p.m. update -- It's a done deal, says the state in a press release, "An agreement has been reached with the Federal Railroad Administration, Norfolk Southern and Amtrak for construction to begin" later this year. Construction will take about two years.