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Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 12:01 am

Third Street rail crossing closures in the works

A rendering of the Scarritt Street crossing shows a house would have to be demolished unless the crossing is closed.

 

To bring Springfield’s Third Street rail line up to safety standards, the state plans to acquire private property and shut down some railroad crossings.

Leaders of the city’s rail consolidation and the state’s high-speed rail projects met with members of the public on Jan. 9 for an update on the status of renovations and the consolidation of Springfield’s railroad corridors. The state is considering closing six crossings along the Third Street line, and will also need to acquire private property for the project.

As a part of the state’s high-speed rail initiative, the Illinois Department of Transportation is working to bring the city’s railroads up to federal regulations for the faster service. Because speeds will likely increase from 25 to 40 miles per hour in Springfield and there may also be a greater volume of trains moving along the lines, the state is required to improve the safety of crossings. IDOT has plans to spend $25 million to $30 million, mostly in federal dollars, on the Third Street corridor changes. Work is expected to begin in 2015.

Project leaders have been asked why money is being spent to renovate the Third Street corridor when there are plans for a larger, more expensive ($315 million) project to consolidate the Third and 10th Street lines, which would then make the Third Street improvements somewhat obsolete.

The answer, according to Phil Pasterak, a project leader with the consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., is that there is no sure time frame for when the consolidation can begin due to a lack of funds.

“If it fell out of the sky today, it’s probably 10-plus years away … but we don’t know when funding is going to happen,” he said.

What is in the foreseeable future is a Third Street corridor environmental study, which is expected to be completed in three to six months. It will help determine what crossings need to be closed and what properties along the lines will be affected. IDOT announced that an early review shows crossings at Union Street, East Jackson Street, East Canedy Street, East Scarritt Street, East Allen Street and East Cedar Street are all candidates for closure. Before any crossings can be closed, however, the city must give its approval.

If the crossings are closed, land around those properties will not have to be acquired. In the case of the Scarritt Street crossing, for example, a home would have to be acquired and demolished before the crossing could be brought to safety standards.

The exact number of properties along the Third Street line that will be affected has not been disclosed, but Pasterak said it is “a few dozen.” Some complete properties need to be acquired while for others only portions will be affected.

Pasterak said the possible acquisitions will be determined when the study is done. He said through the project’s grant agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration, the city can be compensated for crossing closures.

The proposed upgrades at the crossings along Third Street include double gates so that vehicles may not pass through, additional pavement markings, fencing and upgrades to the road surfaces and drainage. The Third Street renovations are also set to include bridge upgrades at Capitol Avenue, Dodge Street and Ninth Street.

10th Street progress
Property owners along Third Street have some time before any acquisition occurs, but some properties along the 10th Street corridor are already in the process of being acquired. Construction for the Carpenter Street underpass, which is a part of the 10th Street project, is expected to begin this year.

Leroy Jordan, chairman of the rail task force of Springfield’s Faith Coalition for the Common Good, expressed concern at the public meeting that property owners are being solicited to sell their properties along the 10th Street rail corridor in advance of the project. Rail planners said if speculators are buying properties they have been unaware of it and would like to know more.

Joe Shacter, director of intermodal transportation at IDOT, said the state is not acquiring any land at this point along 10th Street aside from the Carpenter Street project.

Contact Lauren P. Duncan at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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