The Carpenter Street underpass, built as part of the rail relocation, opened to traffic last year. Photo by Patrick Yeagle.

By Patrick Yeagle

Springfield’s ongoing rail relocation project took a step forward last week with the release of $16 million in federal funding.

The money, which comes from two grants, will help pay for two new underpasses along the 10th Street rail corridor.

The rail relocation project seeks to move the Third Street rail corridor to the 10th Street rail corridor, which requires adding a second track for Union Pacific trains alongside the existing Norfolk Southern tracks along 10th Street. That means widening the corridor and adding underpasses at several crossings to alleviate traffic backups. The underpasses and related projects are referred to as “usable segments” because they will benefit Springfield even if the Third Street rail corridor ultimately isn’t moved.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the project a $14 million grant to help fund construction of underpasses at Laurel and Ash streets. However, the money had yet to be released by the federal government, pending an agreement between DOT, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Sangamon County and the City of Springfield. The grant had a deadline of Aug. 4, after which bidding for the project could not have been opened. An agreement was finally announced last week, allowing the $14 million to be released, along with an additional $2 million federal grant awarded previously to the Illinois Department of Transportation by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Bidding for the Ash Street underpass, which will be built first, is slated to begin this week, and construction could begin in September. Laurel Street will remain open at the railroad crossing until the Ash Street underpass is complete some time in mid-2019.

Funding for the Laurel and Ash underpasses is secure, but officials are still working to secure funding for the remaining usable segments. The rail relocation project is separate from efforts to upgrade crossing guards along the Third Street rail corridor, and officials say improving that corridor doesn’t endanger an eventual move to 10th Street.

Springfield mayor Jim Langfelder thanked Illinois’ congressional delegation – including U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville, U.S. Rep. Darin Lahood of Peoria, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin – for their efforts in securing funds for the project. Langfelder said it will reduce car-train collisions by 80 percent and reduce vehicle delays by 70 percent.

“A goal of our community since the 1920s, it will allow the city to finally reduce the negative impacts of the rail corridors on the quality of life in Springfield and enhance economic growth in our downtown and in the Medical District,” Langfelder said. “We look forward to our continued partnership with our legislative leaders, IDOT and the FRA in completion of the 10th Street corridor.”

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