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Englewood Nature Trail, other Illinois walk/bike/transit projects get federal RAISE grants

Image: Chicago Department of Planning and Development

On Thursday U.S transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the Biden-Harris administration has awarded more than $2.2 billion from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program to help urban and rural communities move forward on projects that modernize roads, bridges, transit, rail, port, and intermodal transportation in an effort to make our transportation system safer, more accessible, more affordable, and more sustainable. Fifty percent of the RAISE funds will go to urban areas and the other half will go to rural areas. 

According to the feds, projects were evaluated on several criteria, including safety, environmental sustainability, quality of life, economic competitiveness and opportunity, partnership and collaboration, innovation, state of good repair, and mobility and community connectivity. Within these areas, the U.S.  Department of Transportation considered how projects will improve accessibility for all travelers, bolster supply chain efficiency, and support racial equity and economic growth – especially in historically disadvantaged communities and areas of persistent poverty.

Here are projects in Illinois that won federal RAISE funds:

Englewood Nature Trail

The city of Chicago received a $20 million RAISE grant for the Englewood Nature Trail, a multi-use path proposed for an unused railroad embankment between 58th and 59th streets between Lowe (700 West) and Hoyne (2100 West) avenues. The trail is intended to improve safety and mobility by creating an alternative and safer option to the car for residents while also promoting active transportation and connections to transit. Underscoring the need for providing a safe alternative to driving, within a half mile of the line there were over 4,000 crashes between 2016 and 2020, including 11 fatalities.

Today @chicagosmayor, @SenatorDurbin, @SenDuckworth, and @RepDannyDavis announced $20M in federal grant funding to support the Englewood Nature Trail. Congrats to @ChicagoDOT, Englewood residents and community partners bringing this vision to life. #Englewood #INVESTSouthWest

— Chicago DPD (@ChicagoDPD) August 11, 2022

The grant will help cover costs for “extensive multi-year outreach and public meetings for project design and conceptions” and addressing potential impacts such as housing displacement, and equitable employment opportunities generated from the project. The Bloomingdale Trail, aka The 606, a similar project on Chicago's Near Northwest Side has been heavily associated with gentrification and displacement. So it's good to see some proactive efforts to prevent longtime residents from being priced out of the Englewood Line area as this new amenity increases property values. 

Harvey Transportation Center

This $20 million project in south-suburban Harvey is an effort to rebuild existing bus transfer and rail station facilities into a cohesive intermodal facility. The existing bus facility will be reconstructed to provide better access to the Metra station, create 14 new bus bays for fixed routes and four layover bus bays, establish paratransit vehicle boarding areas, and add a dedicated lane for passengers exiting buses.]

Rendering of the reconstructed Harvey Transit Center.
Rendering of the reconstructed Harvey Transit Center.
Rendering of the reconstructed Harvey Transit Center.

A second component will upgrade Metra stations. Amenities will be modernized and the current elevated platform will be demolished and a heated platform will be built. The platform will also be extended in order to allow for all train doors to open. The third component will combine the two existing parking lots into one lot which will include more ADA parking and access. These changes are intended to provide easier access to transit and provide a better travel experience.

East Moline Downtown Revitalization Project

East Moline is a municipality in the Quad Cities area with a little over 20 thousand residents. East Moline received a $23 million RAISE grant to help with revitalizing its downtown. The project will connect two brownfield redevelopment sites to downtown and help make downtown a destination for business, recreation, and entertainment. Connections for motor vehicles, bikes, buses, trains, and boats will be created. Pedestrian safety will be improved at rail crossings and a bike-pedestrian trail will  in order to help shift some commuters away from driving to walking or cycling.

Rendering of new streetscape in downtown East Moline
Rendering of new streetscape in downtown East Moline
Rendering of new streetscape in downtown East Moline

Springfield Rail Improvements

Springfield was awarded close to $20 million for a new railroad grade separation underpass at North Grand Avenue over the Norfolk Southern and Illinois Midland rail lines.

Map of the Springfield project area.
Map of the Springfield project area.
Map of the Springfield project area.

The new grade separation is located near a historically disadvantaged community and a local high school, both of which will benefit from safer access and a potential reduction in noise pollution, according to the U.S. DOT. The underpass will also bridge a 150-year old barrier for underserved communities east of the rail corridor which will help residents access jobs, public buildings, medical facilities, and emergency services.

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