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Cook County spends $292,000 to assess feasibility of repairing Port of Chicago

It is one of 30 transportation improvement projects totaling $8.5 million.

The Port of Chicago
The Port of Chicago
Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times file photo

More than $290,000 will be funneled into the once forgotten Port of Chicago to assess the feasibility of doubling its railway capacity and repairing its freight facilities.

The port is one of 30 projects that received a total of $8.5 million through “Invest in Cook” grants awarded by the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways.

The county’s investment leverages an additional nearly $18 million in federal, state and local funds for a total of $26.2 million to be used to help municipalities further their transportation projects, prioritizing transit, cycling and freight transportation projects.

Last year, members of the Illinois International Port District Board unanimously voted down a proposal to turn the Chicago port over to a private operator, opening the door for potential reinvestment into the district.

Since then, it has received a portion of a $35 million state appropriation for the state’s 19 ports and funds from the city’s Lake Calumet Industrial TIF District to pay for $3.48 million in rail and road improvements.

This most recent investment from the county would enable the port to hold 20 rail lines and more than 600 rail cars, while also prioritizing long-needed freight repairs.

Port director Clayton Harris III said the project can bring both economic and environmental benefits by expanding the port’s capacity to move goods and house port tenants, while simultaneously alleviating the need for high volumes of truck traffic on roadways.

The “Invest in Cook” grants help municipalities by covering the cost of planning, engineering, right-of-way acquisition and construction associated with transportation improvements.

Since its inception in 2017, $31.2 million in grants have been awarded to 128 projects throughout the county, with roughly 70 percent of the funding directed to projects in “low and moderate-income communities.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says the program has been important in creating a more equitable and accessible county for all of its residents.

“We can’t all succeed until our most underserved residents have the same opportunities as the rest of us,” Preckwinkle said in a press release. “Creating equal access to transportation options should always be part of the conversation. Making investments to help residents traverse safely and more efficiently throughout the county has always been our top priority.”

Other notable projects include $500,000 awarded to Metra to meet disability standards at its 115th Street Morgan Park station; $420,000 to better accessibility in the south suburbs through a bike and pedestrian project; and $267,000 to improve sidewalks in Niles, Morton Grove and Skokie.