As part of Illinois’ $1.23 billion high speed rail grant, $133 million has been allocated to build the Englewood Flyover, at 63rd and State streets on the South Side of Chicago. More than 10 years ago, MPC highlighted this location as one of dozens of road and rail chokepoints across metropolitan Chicago that needed to be addressed, quite literally to keep our region moving. This analysis informed the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) partnership, an ongoing program to invest billions in critically needed improvements the region's rail infrastructure.
The Englewood Flyover is a prime example of one reason MPC supports high-speed rail investments: they will improve our overall rail network, passenger and freight. Bottlenecks on Chicagoland’s 893 miles of track exacerbate traffic on already congested roads. While cars idle, waiting for trains to crawl by, exhaust pollutes the air and causes respiratory disorders. Children are tardy for school and their parents late for work, hindering productivity. Goods – whether delivered by freight trains or trucks – take longer to get to their destinations; meanwhile, Kansas City is aggressively marketing its congestion-free alternative, threatening our region’s economic competitiveness. As for the effect on transit, the long-awaited dream of a new Southeast Service Line on Metra or increased service on the Rock Island route would only seem to add to the congestion challenge.
Yes, the Englewood Flyover will help bring high-speed rail routes to the east and improve intercity travel. But with the flyover in place, it’s also true that some 30,000 drivers from downtown to Joliet will have an easier commute to and from work; and other workers will have better access to jobs via Metra. Dreams of better transit service will be more achievable, while communities along the corridor will experience cleaner air. Freight will move faster, and goods will arrive sooner.
In short, this isn’t just about high-speed rail. It’s an investment in our region’s rail network that will have a ripple effect on all of our lives.