FAQAbout the Project
Q. What is the CREATE Program?
A. The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program is a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), State of Illinois, City of Chicago, Metra, Amtrak, and the nation’s freight railroads. A program of national significance, CREATE was developed to increase the efficiency of the region’s rail infrastructure.
Q. Why is the Grand Crossing Rail Project needed?
A. Currently, six Amtrak trains on the City of New Orleans, Illini, and Saluki lines pass through Chicago’s South Side, coming from Champaign, Carbondale, Memphis, and New Orleans. The route they travel is congested and does not provide direct access into Union Station, causing delays for rail passengers. The Grand Crossing Rail Project will examine alternate, less congested routes that would enable Amtrak trains to travel directly into Union station, reducing delays for rail passengers and freight trains.
Q. What are the project’s potential benefits?
A. The Grand Crossing Rail Project will address the following needs, which were identified in the project’s Purpose and Need Statement:
- Improved Amtrak route efficiency
- Reduced congestion and delays for freight and passenger rail service
- Adequate capacity for passenger and freight rail traffic in the overall regional rail network
Other potential benefits that may be experienced as a result of the project include:
- Reduced rail congestion on Chicago’s South Side
- Enhanced public safety
- Improved regional air quality
- Reduced noise from idling or slow-moving trains
- Improved Amtrak service, with adequate freight capacity maintained
- Regional economic development
Q. What organizations make up the Project Team?
A. This project is being led by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and FHWA, working in partnership with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
IDOT is supported by members of its consultant team, including its CREATE Program Manager HNTB Corporation, and the Grand Crossing Rail Project consultant team led by Parsons with support from its subconsultants: Carolyn Grisko & Associates, Beaman Incorporated (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)), Campbell Tiu Campbell (DBE), Dynasty Group (DBE), McDonough Associates, Trinal (DBE), Wang Engineering (DBE), and Environmental Design International (DBE).
Q. What does the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process entail?
A. The EIS for the Grand Crossing Rail Project will include the following sections:
- Purpose and Need: This section of the EIS explains why the Grand Crossing Rail Project is needed and the specific transportation needs that the project is trying to address. It also includes information about transportation facilities in the project study area. The public plays an important role in developing these needs and identifying the problems, and the project team will continue to listen to and integrate public input into this section.
- Alternatives: This section explores possible solutions to the transportation problems posed in the Purpose and Need. It explains how reasonable alternatives were selected for study and the reasons why some were eliminated from consideration. It may also identify the alternative that best solves these transportation problems (i.e., the Preferred Alternative) and explain the basis for that decision. This section includes input from the public and local community members, who will have opportunities to comment on the proposed and preferred alternatives.
- Affected Environment: This section describes the existing human and natural environmental settings in the project study area. This includes a description of the resources that may be affected by the project, including residences, businesses, community facilities, recreational areas, historic resources, streams and wetlands, and plant and animal species. This information is compiled through research, environmental studies, and community input.
- Environmental Consequences: This section describes the potential impacts and benefits that each of the alternatives carried forward in the EIS would have on the environment and the actions recommended to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any potentially negative effects. Information in this section is used to compare and evaluate the alternatives carried forward.
- Comments and Coordination: This section summarizes the public involvement process for the project including public meetings, community advisory groups, presentations to block clubs and business associations, and other outreach activities. It details comments received from the public and responses to those comments. It also explains the resource and regulatory agency coordination that took place, any comments received, and how agency comments were addressed.
Q. What is the project schedule?
A. The EIS process will take place during the next two years and will involve the following steps:
- The process formally began with a Notice of Intent in March 2011.
- The Draft Purpose and Need is prepared. Public input on the Purpose and Need will be gathered at a public meeting in Fall/Winter 2011.
- Proposed Alternatives are developed. The public provides input on the proposed reasonable Alternatives at a second public meeting.
- Alternatives are evaluated.
- The findings of the technical studies; impacts and benefits; measures to mitigate any negative effects of the project; and public input are documented in the Draft EIS. A public hearing is held to formally present the findings of the Draft EIS and receive comments.
- Based on comments and review of the Draft EIS, a Preferred Alternative for the project is included in the Final EIS.
- The Record of Decision completes the EIS process.
Q. Is this project part of or related to Norfolk Southern’s (NS) plans for expansion in the area?
A. No. While we are aware of NS’s plans for expansion, the Grand Crossing Rail Project is a separate initiative being led by FHWA and IDOT in cooperation with its partners as part of the CREATE Program.
Q. Where can I find information on the CREATE Program overall?
A. At www.createprogram.org.
Q. Are any residential relocations anticipated with the proposed improvement?
A. The need for residential relocations will depend on the Preferred Alternative selected. We will determine the exact number and location of the relocations during the analysis of alternatives and the selection of the Preferred Alternative. This information will be included in the Draft EIS and available for public review. The DEIS will include a 45-day public comment period and a public hearing to collect input from stakeholders. All owners of property adjacent to the project or potentially impacted by the project receive notices of all public meetings and hearings by mail.
Q. When will the property appraisal, offer, and acquisition process start?
A. The property acquisition process cannot begin until after FHWA signs a Record of Decision (ROD) and authorizes final design. The current schedule anticipates a ROD in February 2014. The Project Team also has to complete preliminary engineering plans. Land acquisition can begin during the final design phase of the project.
Q. What steps are being taken to minimize the disruption of the community and protect homes from demolition?
A. We will make every effort to minimize the need to acquire property. When we do need to acquire property, we will follow the Uniform Relocation Act. This federal act ensures that owners are fairly compensated for the value of their property, that renters and owners receive relocation assistance, including moving expenses, and that any other costs associated with comparable replacement housing are covered. Residents would be given the chance to relocate within the community if possible. We will allow time for orderly relocation into the process.
Q. Who do I call to report an issue with the railroads in my neighborhood?
A. Whenever you have a concern about maintenance near railroad tracks or viaducts, please call 311. The City of Chicago operator will ask questions and get the information to the right people to address the problem. In the case of an emergency or trespassing on railroad property, please call 911.
Environmental and Safety Concerns
Q. If more trains pass through my neighborhood in the future, how will safety be affected, and what safety improvements will be included in the project?
A. Additional trains should not affect safety in the neighborhood because tracks are separated from the street level to reduce locations where residents would come in conflict with the trains. There are no locations in the Grand Crossing Rail Project study area where streets cross the railroad tracks at the same elevation (called “at-grade crossings”).
Q. What are the potential air and noise concerns?
A. We recognize that some residents have concerns related to air quality and noise, and air quality and noise assessments are part of our technical investigations. Our team of experts will evaluate train emissions, considering both idling trains and the number of trains passing through the project study area. We will also analyze train noise due to changes in train traffic and any potential track alignment changes. The results of these analyses will be included in the Draft EIS, which will be available for public review and comment in early 2013.
Q. What about train vibration in my neighborhood?
A. As part of the EIS, we will measure existing vibration levels in the project area, study changes in vibration levels as a result of the project, and, where possible, evaluate the feasibility of mitigation measures to reduce train vibration in the EIS.
Q. Will pedestrian and bicycle access be included in the project?
A. The Grand Crossing Rail Project Team is using the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process to find transportation solutions that balance the needs of the project with the concerns and values of the surrounding community. As part of the CSS process, we will work with the project stakeholders and the public to determine if improvements related to pedestrian and bicycle access are appropriate for this project.
Q. When and where will construction start?
A. The Record of Decision (ROD) is anticipated to be completed in February 2014. After that, final design plans will be developed, and any required property will be purchased. Substantial construction could begin as early as 2016, depending on funding availability.
Q. Who is paying for this project?
A. Funding could come from a variety of sources, including the federal and state governments, the railroads, and the City of Chicago.
Q. How much will this project cost?
A. Cost estimates have not yet been prepared for this project, but will be as alternatives are developed and evaluated.
Q. Is the money available for construction?
A. Not at this time. As funding for CREATE is received from the various sources, it is allocated to projects that are ready for construction at that time. Since the Grand Crossing Rail Project will not be ready for construction for several years, funding has not yet been allocated.
Q. Will the construction project result in road closures? If so, what will be the impact on emergency vehicle access and public transportation routes?
A. Temporary and/or permanent road closures may be a part of this project. However, the specific locations of potential road closures are not known at this time. This detail will be developed as the project progresses, with input from the public during public and Community Advisory Group meetings. Potential permanent road closures will be identified in the EIS. All road closures are subject to coordination with and approval by the City of Chicago.
Prior to construction, detailed plans will be developed for motorist, pedestrian, bicycle, transit and emergency vehicle routes that may change. These plans will be shared with the public.
Q. During construction, what will be the impact to businesses in the area?
A. Potential impacts to businesses are not known at this time. Business impacts will be identified as part of the project and will be documented in the EIS. If businesses will be impacted, continued access to businesses would be a priority in planning the project.
Q. There are several schools, playgrounds, parks, and other community recreational facilities near the proposed construction area. Should we be concerned about increased noise and air quality during the construction project?
A. As with any construction project, there may be a temporary increase in noise and vehicle emissions at certain times at locations where construction of the rail improvements is taking place. As part of the EIS process, we will evaluate potential construction impacts and discuss them with the community.
Contractors will be responsible for complying with all applicable federal, state and local statutes, ordinances, and directives with respect to eliminating excessive noise and pollution of air during construction. These rules are intended to reduce the noise from heavy construction equipment and control the dust, smoke, and fumes from construction equipment and other worksite operations. The Chicago Department of Environment’s website states, “The Environmental Noise Ordinance strives to set a balance between the needs of daytime productivity and nighttime tranquility, and between reasonable and unreasonable noise.” These ordinances must be followed unless the contractor has secured a special waiver from the City of Chicago. For more information, visit the Chicago Department of Environment’s website at www.cityofchicago.org/environment or call 311.
Q. What opportunities will the public have to provide input on the project?
A. The Grand Crossing Rail Project Team is committed to being inclusive, open-minded, and transparent through the CSS process. The Project Team will present project information at public meetings and ask for feedback throughout the EIS process. The public will have opportunities to help identify the problems the project will address, develop solutions to these problems, and evaluate the potential benefits and impacts of these solutions. In addition, two Community Advisory Groups – one for neighborhoods in the northern part of the study area and one for those in the southern part – will serve as a forum for community leaders and residents to meet periodically to discuss the community’s thoughts and ideas about the project. More information about the ways we will communicate with the members of the public, organizations, and agencies can be found in the project’s Stakeholder Involvement Plan, a dynamic document the will be updated continually over the course of the project.
Q. How are stakeholders able to comment?
A. We welcome questions and comments at any time and encourage stakeholders to provide input throughout the life of the project. There are many ways to comment:
- Send an email to the project team at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fill out an online comment form
- Fill out a comment form at a public meeting
- Mail your comments to the project team
Q. How can we get copies of the Environmental Impact Statement?
A. Copies of the signed EIS will be available at public libraries and on this website (www.grandcrossingrail.com) and the IDOT web site (www.dot.state.il.us). Interested stakeholders and residents can join the mailing list through the project website to receive project announcements and invitations to public meetings. Everyone on the mailing list will be informed when the EIS documents are available for review and comment.
Q. How can we find out about jobs with the Grand Crossing Railroad Project or CREATE?
A. The CREATE team is committed to helping local residents find out about job opportunities and requirements on CREATE projects and in the railroad industry. Jobs with the CREATE Program are broken down into two broad categories: 1) jobs in the railroad industry; and 2) jobs on CREATE construction projects.
The railroad industry hires regularly and is currently in hiring mode. If you are interested in applying for jobs with the railroads, go to their websites to apply for railroad jobs.
Go to www.amtrak.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Careers”
Go to www.bnsf.com and click on “Careers”
Go to www.beltrailway.com and click on “Employment”
Go to www.cn.ca, select “Careers” and click on “Search and Apply for Jobs”
Go to www.cpr.ca, select “English” and click on “Jobs”
Go to www.csx.com and click on “Working at CSX”
Go to http://metrarail.com and click on “Employment”
Go to www.nscorp.com and click on “Job Seekers”
Go to www.up.com and click on “Jobs at UP”
Construction work on the Grand Crossing Rail Project and other CREATE projects will be done by both railroad workforces and private contractors, each having their own hiring processes and requirements. To apply with the railroads, visit the websites above.
Most private contractors require that their workers have union credentials. If you have a union card, talk to your local union representative about being placed with a contractor that works on the CREATE Program. To get a union card, you will need to enroll in a pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship program. Work with a local employment resource center, or visit www.illinoisworknet.com for information about training programs.
Q. Where can contractors get information about bidding on this project?
A. Information about all current CREATE bid opportunities can be found on the CREATE website at www.createprogram.org/business.htm