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IL-RailCongestion 07-17

New rail money to put

the ‘go’ back in Chicago

Associated Press

CHICAGO — When a train screeches to a halt in Chicago, freight and passenger trains from as far away as Baltimore or Los Angeles are sometimes forced to apply their brakes as well — which can result in costly gridlock throughout the nation’s 140,000-mile rail network.

But a fresh injection of cash, including a generous slice of a new $10 billion state capital plan, means a long-languishing, $1.5 billion project to ease train traffic jams in the nation’s most important rail hub by building new overpasses and modernizing signals can begin in earnest.

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The unofficial motto of the congestion-reduction project, widely considered one of the most vital to the long-term financial health of some of the nation’s biggest railroad companies, is "Keeping the ’go’ in Chicago."

As it is now, it’s often no go.

The 500 freight trains that pass through Chicago each day compete for access to tracks with 700 daily commuter trains in the region. This means trains hauling everything from coal to grocery items can take more than a day to wind their way through Chicago.

The Illinois bill sets aside $320 million for the project — money that will be pooled with more than $200 million raised earlier.

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