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Project Profile: Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE)

Chicago Region Environmental and
 Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE)

photo credit: City of Chicago


Chicago, Illinois

Project Sponsor / Borrower

City of Chicago, State of Illinois

Program Areas

Value Capture

Value Capture Techniques Private Contribution

Multimodal (freight rail, passenger rail and highway)


The Chicago region is the world's third busiest intermodal hub, covering approximately 16,000 acres. It's also where six of the seven Class I freight railroads converge and where nearly a quarter of the nation's rail shipments arrive or pass through.

The CREATE project is maximizing the use of four train transportation corridors, including three primarily handling freight traffic and one primarily handling passenger traffic. The project involves 70 improvements, including:

  • 25 new roadway overpasses or underpasses at locations where auto and pedestrian traffic currently crosses railroad tracks at grade level
  • 6 new rail overpasses or underpasses to separate passenger and freight train tracks
  • 36 other railroad projects including viaduct improvements, grade crossing safety enhancements, and extensive upgrades of tracks, switches and signal systems
  • Improvements to existing viaducts in Chicago
  • Grade crossing safety enhancements
  • Integration of information from dispatch systems of all major railroads in the region into a single display (Common Operational Picture)

Selecting the improvements for CREATE was a collaborative process between the freight railroads, State of Illinois Department of Transportation, City of Chicago Department of Transportation, Metra and Amtrak. Input on grade crossings and traffic congestion was considered from the Illinois Commerce Commission and Chicago Area Transportation Study.

Six private freight railroads have contributed their own equity to support the project. They include: BNSF Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, CN, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. The railroads are represented by the American Association of Railroads.


$4.6 billion

Funding Sources

$1.6 billion has been committed to date:

  • Private freight railroad contributions - $375 million
  • Federal funds - $628 million (INFRA grant, TIGER grants, ARRA High Speed Rail grant, SAFETEA-LU Projects of National and Regional Significance grant, Railroad Relocation grant, FRA Safe Transportation of Energy Products by Rail Program grant, National Highway Freight Program, CMAQ and STP Funds)
  • State funds - $441 million
  • Local funds - $153 million (Chicago DOT, Cook County, and other local governments)
  • Pre-CREATE funding from various sources - $286.5 million
Project Delivery / Contract Method

Primarily Design-bid-build and internal railroad capabilities (Force Account)

Private Partner

Equity partners - BNSF Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, CN, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad

Project Advisors / Consultants

Jacobs, Inc.


Parsons Transportation Group, Inc.

Edwards and Kelcey Design Services

Patrick Engineering

TransSystems Corporation

Hanson Professional Services, Inc.

Alfred Bensch & Co.



Duration / Status

The program was launched in 2003.

As of April 2019:

  • Projects completed - 30
  • Projects under construction - 5
  • Projects in final design - 5
  • Projects undergoing environmental review - 11
  • Unfunded projects - 19
Financial Status

Unfunded portion - approximately $3 billion

  • CREATE represents the first time state and local governments have partnered with the railroad industry to solve the problem of auto and rail congestion on such a large scale.
  • CREATE also is the first time so many competing railroads have come together as partners to increase the efficiency of an urban rail network. Six of the seven major railroads operating in North America pass through Chicago. All six of those railroads are partners in the CREATE Program.
  • Together the six private railroads have contributed $375 million to date to the CREATE program.
Related Links / Articles

Official Project Website

USDOT Webinar on Freight Planning (Oct. 19, 2016) - Presentation


Guy Tridgell
Director of Communications
Illinois Department of Transportation 
Tel: (312) 793-4199

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