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High-speed-rail upgrades nearing end in Twin Cities

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BLOOMINGTON — Work at a West Washington Street railroad crossing and another in Normal signals the end of major improvements in the Twin Cities related to high-speed passenger rail service.

If Mother Nature cooperates, Washington between Western and Gas avenues in west Bloomington is expected to be closed for three weeks, Randy Lovell, said senior construction manager for Union Pacific Railroad's consultant, STV Inc.

The closure, which began Monday, is necessary to finish up street work related to improvement of the nearby crossing. The track there was rebuilt in November, "and we're just coming back and completing the remaining work now that it's construction season," said Lovell. 

"It's nothing major. We're going to be doing new curbs and sidewalks and a little bit of roadway pavement work, just some mill- and overlay-type activities."

The work is being overseen by the railroad, not the city.

Lovell said work on railroad crossings in the Bloomington-Normal area, including improvements that closed eastbound College Avenue between Linden and Walnut streets in Normal for six months, are nearly completed.

"We're almost done. We're finishing up College Avenue in Normal within the next couple of weeks," said Lovell.

"We've got some odd and ends (in Bloomington), fencing-type activities, to complete, a little bit of utility work left to do, but nothing substantial," he added.

The Illinois Department of Transportation and Union Pacific have been overseeing upgrades to several intersections in the Twin Cities that are funded with federal high-speed rail money.

Track and intersection improvements are intended to allow passenger trains capable of going up to 110 mph to travel safely through Bloomington-Normal, starting this year. High-speed rail is expected to shave about an hour off the Chicago-St. Louis run, which now takes about 5½ hours.

A section of Mason Street in the area between West Market and West Emerson streets in Bloomington will be closed for about a week in the near future for work on a utility line, said Lovell.

The entire Chicago-St. Louis corridor is tentatively scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017.

One major high-speed-rail project involved tearing down and replacing a railroad bridge that closed Market Street between Morris and Western avenues in Bloomington for 8½ months. After several delays that drew complaints from area businesses, Market reopened in November.

Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @pg_nagle


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