Springfield prepares to build Ash and Laurel underpasses

The City of Springfield is poised to accept a $14 million federal grant to help pay for new underpasses where Ash and Laurel streets cross the 10th Street rail corridor.

The underpasses are the next phase of Springfield's ongoing rail relocation project.

At a Springfield City Council Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, the committee approved a proposed agreement accepting the $14 million grant from the federal TIGER program to help pay for engineering, archaeology and construction on the project. The agreement will likely receive final approval by the city council at its next meeting.

Jim Moll, the rail project manager for Hanson Professional Services, says the total expected cost for the Ash and Laurel underpasses is $50 million. In addition to the TIGER grant, $15 million comes from the Illinois Commerce Commission's Grade Crossing Protection Fund, $2 million comes from a Federal Railroad Administration grant, $17.5 million comes from the Illinois Department of Transportation, and $1.5 million comes from the City of Springfield.

Moll says bidding for the project opens on August 4, and he hopes to see construction on the Ash Street underpass begin in September. Laurel Street will remain open while Ash is under construction, which should last until May or June of 2019.

"Both underpasses won’t be closed at same time," Moll said. "One will always be open."

The rail relocation would see the Union Pacific railroad moved from Third Street to 10th Street, alongside the existing Norfolk-Southern rail corridor. The project has been designed in several "usable segments" meant to improve traffic flow and safety even if the Third Street tracks don't end up moving to 10th Street. That requires adding several underpasses at 10th Street, like the one completed on Carpenter Street last year, to avoid road congestion due to increased train traffic.

The project also requires relocating several properties. To that end, the City of Springfield has already relocated a handful of homeowners and businesses along the corridor, and the Committee of the Whole preliminarily approved up to $28,000 in funding on Tuesday to move Cadenza Inc., doing business as Cadenza Quilts, from 1417 and 1425 S. 10½ St.

Moll says the next "usable segment" after completing the Ash and Laurel underpasses will be improving the underpasses where the 10th Street rails cross Fifth and Sixth streets. The bridges must be widened to allow for two sets of tracks, Moll says. In the meantime, he adds that there will continue to be public informational meetings on the project every six months. Details on the project and meetings are available at springfieldrailroad.com.

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