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Hanson leads University of Illinois students on tour of rail project sites

University of Illinois rail engineering students stand at the Cook Street underpass construction site in Springfield, Ill.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign rail engineering students recently toured Springfield, Illinois, rail improvements under construction, including the Cook Street underpass behind them, led by Hanson's Mike Mendenhall, P.E., S.E., Kevin Seals and Dennis Wilkinson, P.E., S.E.

About 25 rail engineering students from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) recently came to Springfield, Illinois, for a Hanson-led tour of the Springfield Rail Improvements Project.

Hanson continues to lead the efforts for the ongoing, $547 million project that involves consolidating rail corridors in Illinois’ capital and reducing the number of at-grade crossings from 68 to 32 — increasing safety and improving access to the city’s medical district and other areas.

It is expected to reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, decrease noise by creating a “quiet zone” for the rail corridor and enhance livability and commercial activity by diminishing the barriers created by rail lines through the city’s commercial and residential areas. The Springfield Rail Improvements Project is also a part of the Illinois High-Speed Rail Chicago to St. Louis program.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has highlighted the project as an example of a successfully federally funded rail project. It has received $98.1 million in federal grant funding, including nearly $20 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. As part of this project, Hanson is also providing design services for The Hub, a centralized public transportation center, and conducting a feasibility study for the Third Street corridor redevelopment in downtown Springfield.

Rail project presents learning opportunities

Hanson’s Chairman and CEO Sergio “Satch” Pecori, P.E., who is an alumnus of UIUC’s Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) program, invited students from the CEE program and the university’s Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) to Hanson’s Springfield headquarters for a presentation about the Springfield Rail Improvements Project. The group included students enrolled in a Railway Project Planning and Design class and members of UIUC’s American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) Student Chapter. The students were led and accompanied by Assistant Professor J. Riley Edwards and RailTEC Research Engineer Arthur de Oliveira Lima.

Hanson Springfield employees Mike Mendenhall, P.E., S.E., a senior structural engineer, and Kevin Seals, the company’s chief environmental scientist, discussed the different aspects of the project during the presentation. Then, Greg Nichelson, P.E., a senior civil/railway engineer in Sarasota, Florida, answered students’ questions via Teams while the group enjoyed lunch provided by Hanson.