The Illinois Department of Transportation has announced that work on Lenox Tower, a $10.1 million project to modernize rail operations, improve safety and enhance the mobility of goods, people and services throughout Metro East, has been completed. The project, a joint federal and state effort with several railroads, reconfigured an outdated network of tracks and signals while replacing a 97-year-old trackside control tower and transferring its functions to a centralized facility.
“Nearly a year after we broke ground on Lenox Tower improvements, I am thrilled to announce that we have completed this massive project,” said Gov. Pritzker. “Thanks to the leadership and collaboration of IDOT, the Federal Railroad Administration, and multiple state and regional railways, Illinoisans will be able to get to where they are going quicker with streamlined tracks, higher speeds, centralized operations, and decongested local roads. This investment is just another way that we are solidifying Illinois’ status as the premier transportation hub of the nation – and it’s only just the beginning.”
“Under Gov. Pritzker, IDOT is working to strengthen the multimodal network that makes us the transportation hub of North America,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “These improvements are an important piece of the puzzle, vital to freight and passenger rail movement through the state. They could not have been accomplished without incredible teamwork at the state and federal level and with our railroad partners.”
The project was made possible by a $5.1 million grant from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program, administered by the Federal Railroad Administration, with contributions of $1.3 million from IDOT, $2 million from Union Pacific Railroad, $1 million from Amtrak, $440,000 from BNSF Railway and $300,000 from Kansas City Southern Railway.
“We congratulate the Illinois Department of Transportation, Union Pacific Railroad, Amtrak, BNSF Railway and Kansas City Southern Railway on completion of the Lenox Tower project,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “This successful collaboration exemplifies how rail infrastructure investments can improve the movement of freight and passengers alike.”
The project consisted of untangling a complex system of tracks, signals and switches where four lines intersect at one of the most congested areas in the state near Mitchell, streamlining rail operations in the region. Lenox Tower, a two-story facility that used antiquated switching machinery to control train traffic, was taken down in the spring of 2021, with operations transferred to a Union Pacific dispatching center.
The completed improvements will increase the speed of freight train operations and decrease traffic congestion on local roads, resulting in fewer blocked crossings and reduced passenger service travel times. Up to 35 trains pass through the location daily.
“Union Pacific is pleased the Lenox Tower project is complete, resulting in more efficient freight and passenger rail service,” said Liisa Stark, Union Pacific’s vice president of public affairs. “This project is a great example of a successful partnership leveraging infrastructure investments that benefit both the public and private sectors to support the economy.”
“Amtrak happily made a $1 million investment in this project because of the immediate benefit it provides to our customers on the ten Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains that use this track daily,” said Ray Lang, Amtrak vice president for state-supported services. “IDOT, UP and Amtrak all want to eliminate delays and reduce travel times on the popular Chicago-St. Louis corridor and this work is part of that continuous initiative.”
The project represents yet another achievement on the Chicago-to-St. Louis rail corridor, joining enhanced safety and performance between Joliet and Alton, safer crossings, and new or improved stations in Joliet, Dwight, Pontiac, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton. New Amtrak locomotives were introduced in 2017, new passenger railcars have begun to be introduced and higher speeds are anticipated in 2023.