Last week ended on a pretty good note for American passenger rail.
On Thursday, the Federal Railroad Administration announced a $16 million grant to support improved safety and scheduling on the San Francisco-San Jose corridor in California. And on Friday, we provided $126 million for Chicago's Englewood Flyover project to eliminate one of the nation's largest rail bottlenecks.
In California, the money will pay for the design of a positive train control system that increases rail safety and efficiency by monitoring and controlling train movements. This will improve passenger service along the busy Caltrain corridor. Soon, these technology enhancements will also help the California High Speed Rail Authority integrate California’s existing rail network with high-speed passenger service.
Positive Train Control keeps passengers and railroad workers safer by maintaining safe train separations, ensuring proper speeds, protecting roadway workers in authorized work zones, and protecting against train movement over misaligned switches. Once this is installed, the San Francisco-San Jose system will meet the congressionally-mandated provisions of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
As Representative Anna G. Eshoo said, "This is an important first step in making Caltrain a 21st century transportation system.”
In Chicago, the Englewood Flyover is a grade separation project south of Union Station that eliminates one of the most delay-prone intersections in the entire Amtrak system. The flyover will separate Metra commuter trains from Amtrak passenger trains traveling on the Norfolk Southern freight corridor.
It's part of a partnership between the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, freight railroads, Metra, and Amtrak to reduce train congestion throughout Chicagoland and the Midwest. This congestion reduces the capacity of railroads, forcing more trucks on to the highways and limiting the region's effectiveness as the nation’s transportation hub.
Untying rail congestion in Chicago is critical to developing a Midwest passenger rail network that will connect the 40 largest markets in the Midwest. Building the Englewood Flyover will put American workers back to work this summer and create new orders for American suppliers.
This project can only move forward now because Illinois, Norfolk Southern, and Amtrak came together, saw they had common goals, and agreed on how to achieve those goals. Their agreement also lays the groundwork for an additional express track for high-speed trains to points east and south.
Amtrak uses the Norfolk Southern line for all trains from Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis into Chicago. So this additional track will go a long way toward cementing Chicago as the anchor of the Midwest high-speed passenger rail network. Construction has already started on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor. The Englewood Flyover marks the first construction between Chicago and Detroit. The Midwest has also received an award for a new fleet of domestically-built trains.
At DOT, we are thrilled to see these rail projects get under way--projects that will create direct jobs for construction workers and indirect jobs for suppliers even as they increase passenger safety, ease rail congestion, and pave the way for American high-speed rail.