The CREATE Program strives to build equity within neighborhoods across the Chicagoland region by engaging the local workforce and providing environmental benefits. CREATE is leading innovative and sustained community engagement by fostering a culture of partnership at the local level. The CREATE partners are proud of this approach and look forward to continuing this model on future projects. Additionally, the program is developing educational opportunities and community improvements to those who live near the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project (CIP). The 75th Street CIP is the largest project in the CREATE Program, located in the Chicago neighborhoods of Ashburn, Englewood, Auburn Gresham and West Chatham. The 75th St. CIP comprises four individual improvements that are interconnected and will collectively untangle the most significant rail bottleneck in North America. The CREATE partners received a $132 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding American (INFRA) grant from the US Department of Transportation in 2018, enabling design of the entire 75th St. CIP and partial construction.
- Local DBE firms MelKel LLC and Trinal, Inc. developed processes to better connect the railroads with individuals seeking training and employment opportunities on CREATE Program projects. These firms have been working with human resource departments within railroad companies as well as local contractors to help individuals gain access to training opportunities so they are able to develop the skills required to work on these projects.
- CREATE partners are funding on-the-job training on 75th St. CIP construction projects for entry-level positions who have graduated from IDOT’s Highway Construction Careers Training Program (HCCTP) at Dawson Technical Institute at the City Colleges of Chicago. Learn more about the success of the HCCTP from Roy B., a graduate of the program who is currently working for construction company R.W. Dunteman on CREATE’s Argo Connections (B9) project.
- Other successes from the HCCTP program include a graduate who is working for CSX as a track worker, and another who was recently hired by a CREATE contractor and sponsored into the union on a CSX project.
- In 2021, CSX held a Railway Career Pathways Program with Dawson Technical Institute students. The program assists Dawson Technical Institute students and graduates in preparing to seek a career in the railway industry. This engagement will continue quarterly.
- In 2021, the CREATE partners hosted a Union Construction Career Pathways Virtual Workshop during which union representatives and organizations from various locals discussed careers in the rail and construction-related industries. Discussions included learning about the educational and career opportunities and alternative pathways for employment.
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Local/Minority Contracting
- Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) contracting goals are routinely set above federal requirements.
- The Program hosts ongoing project information resource events and business to business networking events, including Get on Board, to provide information on procurement opportunities to certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE), small businesses and rail-industry prime contractors specializing in engineering, design and construction. These events take place with every mandatory pre-bid meeting.
- 27 different DBEs are working on 75th St. CIP teams as of January 2021. 9 additional DBEs are expected as part of CSX’s upcoming construction management and temporary construction teams.
- Through the 75th CIP, several DBEs have found success and growth through the Program’s workforce investment. Learn more from Rashod Johnson, President and CEO of Ardmore Roderick here.
- Participation from additional opportunities for DBEs are anticipated through right-of-way acquisition, engineering, construction and supplier opportunities.
- Air Quality and Energy Improvements – the improvement of rail and road traffic operations will decrease train and vehicle idling, reducing pollution and energy consumption and improving air quality in the surrounding neighborhoods
- Noise Mitigation – the 75th Street CIP will design noise barriers in strategic locations to mitigate the future increase in train noise as required by federal standards.
- Landscaping and Design – the 75th Street CIP will design and construct landscaping improvements and aesthetic enhancements to mitigate visual impacts and enhance parks. Improvements range from basic clean-up and trash removal to special landscaping, irrigation and drainage improvements, as well as facilities to enhance neighborhood gardening.
- Visual Impact Mitigation – to minimize visual impacts of the planned rail flyovers, design teams will investigate the potential for adding landscaping, tree replacement and aesthetic treatments. Final recommendations will be coordinated with stakeholders.
Support for Community Education in the 75th Street CIP
The Education Commitment consists of a series of programs to encourage interest in transportation, engineering, and technical fields by elementary and high school students who live and go to school within the project area.
- Financial contributions of more than $240,000 per year to education programs that serve project area communities (Chicago Public Libraries, Chicago Public Schools, Museum of Science and Industry, Daley College of the City Colleges of Chicago).
- CREATE in the Classroom – CREATE partners/consultants lead elementary school students in classroom activities focused on engineering, government operations, urban planning, surveying, bridge building and railroad safety — inspiring students to explore careers in transportation and engineering.
- CREATE in the Community – Field trips to local railroad sites.
- CREATE in the Lab – CREATE partners/consultants work with high school students exposing them to technical and soft skills required to design and build transportation infrastructure.
- Junior Mentor Protégé Internships – Internships for young adults from 75th St. CIP communities.
Community Mobility Improvements in the 75th Street CIP
Viaduct Improvements – Designing structural, roadway, sidewalk, drainage and utility improvements under 36 rail viaducts that will enhance safety and security for people walking, bicycling, and driving, reduce congestion and improve bus transit operations.
- Community Mobility Benefits (CMB) – Designing and constructing community mobility improvements that will enhance the safety, accessibility, quality of life and visual appeal of the community, as well as improve the transit-riding experience. Projects include street tree plantings, accessible sidewalk and curb improvements, street repaving and improvements to bus stops.