The city of Springfield has secured a $22 million federal grant that will allow construction to begin on a new stage of the Springfield Rail Improvements Project.
The $315 million project, which started with rail overpass construction on Carpenter Street in 2014, aims to alleviate rail congestion downtown by consolidating train traffic from Third Street to 10th Street and through building a series of overpasses and underpasses along the corridor.
The grant, announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Thursday, will go toward a portion of the project between Princeton Avenue and Stanford Avenue, where improvements will include replacing single-track bridges at the Fifth and Sixth streets underpasses with double track structures in addition to further grading, drainage and track work.
"With this award, the city will take a giant step forward in efforts to more effectively and efficiently travel by rail through our state's capital, improve the flow of traffic, and provide an opportunity to fully develop Springfield's medical district," said Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria.
The grant will cover about half the segment's $44.1 million price tag, with the Illinois Department of Transportation kicking in $17.2 million and the city of Springfield contributing $4.8 million.
County and city leaders hailed the grant as a major step forward for the project, which is being built in phases and scheduled to be completed by 2025.
"Without this funding, we were facing a gap until the state approved a capital bill," said Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter. "But with this funding, construction will be able to continue seamlessly until the state capital bill is finally approved."
Mayor Jim Langfelder said the funding "keeps the momentum going" on the project.
And the timing is key, stakeholders said, as the funding will allow them to stage construction to end around the same time construction of another segment of the project is slated to end.
That other segment, a $50 million phase, involves building underpasses at Ash Street and Laurel Avenue along the 10th Street corridor. The former has been closed between Sixth and 10th streets since November 2017 and is expected to reopen this summer.
Once Ash Street reopens, construction will begin on Laurel Avenue, which will likely be closed until December 2020. If all goes well, the phase between Princeton Avenue and Stanford Avenue will wrap around then, too.
Langfelder said the next step now is securing funding from the state for underpasses at Madison and Jefferson streets, which carries an estimated $47 million price tag.
LaHood and Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, while crediting the coordinated effort between local, state and federal officials on securing this funding, said a visit this summer by Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory helped seal the deal.
"Having (him) come to Springfield earlier this year and see the project first-hand has helped us ensure Washington understands the local and national significance of this project," Davis said.