Tracks

Peru will extend Unytite Drive westward to Plank Road, and Omni Trax/Illinois Rail will be able to accommodate more rail traffic and rail car capacity for industries between Route 251 and Plank Road thanks to a $6 million grant announced by Congress this week.

A $6 million grant is heading to Peru to improve rail and roadway traffic and rail car capacity in the industrial area on the north side of town.

The city has been working to assist OmniTRAX/Illinois Rail to make improvements to serve current and future industry and manufacturing north of Unytite Drive, west of Route 251 and east of Plank Road.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Tuesday said he was notified by the U.S. Department of Transportation that Peru has been awarded more than $6 million under the Fiscal Year 2018 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program. U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) also both lauded the grant.

“This important investment will not only improve rail access and service reliability, it will boost economic development around Peru,” said Durbin.

Technically, the city serves as the “grantee” for the federal funds, and will distribute $4 million of that to Illinois Rail/OmniTRAX, which did the bulk of the work applying for the grant, said Peru Finance Officer Justin Miller.

The city will receive $2 million to pay for the approximately $2.7 million westward expansion of Unytite Drive from its current west end to Plank Road. That extension can make the north end of Peru more attractive to future employers and industries, which is a goal of the city and of Illinois Rail/OmniTRAX.

“The city will have $750,000 of our own money into it,” Miller said.

Illinois Rail/OmniTRAX, however, has been making major investments in the shortline railroad that it purchased from the city-owned PeruRail a few years ago. Miller said the rail company will have about $19 million in improvements made in Peru by the time this project is completed.

Unytite Drive extension and the rail upgrades already happening

Railroad improvements not only can attract future employers and industry, they also will directly benefit James Hardie Building Products and other current industrial businesses in that corridor.

Railroad improving will directly benefit James Hardie and other industrial users up there

The Peru Intermodal, Safety, Congestion and Energy Security Project, Phase II (PISCES II) is part of a series of projects aimed at improving rail access and expanding the routes needed to safely and efficiently haul materials produced in the City of Peru, according to Kinzinger’s office.

In late May, city engineer Eric Carls said Peru is funding the city’s smaller portion of the project with federal STU funds already received as well as from state motor fuel tax.

“This grant is a great step forward to move more commerce into and out of Peru,” said Peru Mayor Scott Harl. “Help in the reduction of truck traffic on our highways. This investment of $6,081,936 ensures safe and reliable transportation for years to come. This represents nearly $20 million in our road and rail infrastructure corridor in the last three years. This goes without saying, we’re open for business.”

Carls told the council on May 28 the road will be a concrete roadway, designed to handle truck traffic.

One of the goals in the process of obtaining the grant is identifying the need to remove some of the truck traffic from the highways, specifically from the city’s commercial corridor (Route 251). Carls reported the city has talked to all the industries there and received letters of support from each of the industry members located on Plank Road, Unytite Drive and Donlar Avenue. Carls said he was hopeful this will help alleviate congestion and increase safety in the retail area.

Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or ntlocal@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_NewsEditor.

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