In Brief

Metra Announces 2018 Construction, Including Station Work

CHICAGO (AP) — As many Chicagoans know, spring may mean warm weather, but it also means the start of construction season.

Metra recently released its list of construction projects planned for 2018.

The railroad is using its $84.8 million budget to improve signal and communication systems as part of new federal guidelines. Other projects include replacing aging bridges and road crossings, as well as constructing new track segments.

Metra officials say they plan improvements at 30 stations. Most construction work will occur during off-peak hours and on weekends. Some projects will increase commute times as much as 10 to 15 minutes.

Riders can visit the Metra website to see any modified schedules. Construction will start in April and continue into the fall.

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Shale Pipeline Operator to Pay Fine in Air Pollution Case

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A company that processes and transports natural gas and natural gas liquids in Ohio’s and Pennsylvania’s shale fields is agreeing to pay $610,000 to settle complaints by Pennsylvania and the federal government that it was violating air pollution laws.

A consent decree filed April 24 in Pittsburgh’s federal court also obligates two subsidiaries of Ohio-based MPLX to install equipment to reduce emissions of smog-forming pollutants at compressor stations and pipeline maintenance points in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Pennsylvania brought the complaints against the MPLX subsidiaries.

The companies were accused of building or operating compressor stations and maintenance points without appropriate permits and without keeping emissions records. EPA officials say the companies will upgrade more than 300 facilities in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

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Will County Officials to Use 50 Percent Renewable Power

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Will County officials are purchasing more renewable energy.

The (Tinley Park) Daily Southtown reports that the Will County Board voted to approve a three-year contract for $1.5 million with Constellation Energy for electricity. Half of it will come from renewable sources.

It’s a huge increase from the state requirement that 12.5 percent of power be green.

But some board members wanted more. Homer Glen Republican Mike Fricilone says he understands the need to take “baby steps.” But he challenged colleagues to push to 100 percent green energy within a year.

Board member Don Gould is a Republican from Shorewood. He warned the board it was making too large of a change and suggested a 25 percent renewable power share for now. He noted Will County is a major nuclear-power producer.

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U of Illinois Breaks Ground on $48 Million Design Center

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — The University of Illinois’ Champaign-Urbana campus has broken ground on a $48 million design center.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports the Siebel Center for Design will have tools students will need to complete design projects that center director Rachel Switzky says high-tech firms are seeking. That includes 3D printers, water-jet cutters, computer-controlled machining and virtual reality technology.

The groundbreaking was held April 24 and the 59,000-square-foot center is expected to open in 2020. It’s possible through UI graduate Tom Siebel, who founded two software firms and donated $25 million to the project.

The center will have five studios that can house up to 400 students, a studio for large-scale construction and prototyping and an open-space workshop, along with meeting rooms and galleries.

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Iowa adjustment board approves wind farm project

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — A county board in northeast Iowa has approved a 35-turbine wind energy project despite strong opposition from many residents who live near the development.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that the Black Hawk County Board of Adjustment voted April 24 to give Washburn Wind Energy a special permit for the 70-megawatt project south of Waterloo.

Washburn now needs to conduct required studies and apply for building permits for the $120 million project.

Supporters say the project will benefit the environment and generate jobs, tax revenue and economic activity. Opponents are concerned about the project’s potentially negative impacts on their health and property values.

Washburn Wind Energy is a subsidiary of RPM Access, which has developed about 17 percent of the wind farm projects in Iowa.

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Gaming Commission Approves Horseshoe’s $85M Casino Plans

ELIZABETH, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana Gaming Commission has approved plans for Horseshoe Southern Indiana to move its riverboat casino operations inland with the construction of an $85 million facility.

Caesars Entertainment received unanimous approval April 24 for the project in Elizabeth.

The News and Tribune reports the inland casino, made possible by a 2015 law that allows riverboat casinos to move to land as long as they stay within their existing footprint, will connect to Horseshoe’s current pavilion, which houses restaurants and stores.

Caesars says the casino along the Ohio River near Louisville, Kentucky, will include restaurants, an entertainment venue and retail outlets. The project also includes renovations to Horseshoe’s existing meeting and convention space. Caesars is in the final stages of design for the facility.

The casino could open in 2019.

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Iowa-Illinois Bridge Project Taking Longer Than Planned

SABULA, Iowa (AP) — Officials say work is taking longer than expected on a new bridge that helps connect eastern Iowa with northwestern Illinois.

The bridge at Sabula will provide access to a larger U.S. Highway 52/Illinois 64 bridge over the Mississippi River to Savanna, Ill. The old Sabula Bridge was closed in March, forcing motorists into a 36-mile (58 kilometer) detour.

The construction was scheduled to be finished in late May. Now the Iowa Transportation Department says the bridge won’t be open until at least July because of problems with sandy soil.

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Thompson Center, Illinois fairgrounds on Endangered List

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Chicago’s massive downtown state government building and the state fairgrounds in Du Quoin and Springfield are among this year’s most endangered historic buildings in Illinois.

The non-profit group Landmarks Illinois released its 2018 list in April, highlighting sites it says are threatened by demolition, deterioration or improper development. The group says this year’s list focuses on sites that represent Illinois’ 200-year history in honor of the Illinois bicentennial.

The group calls downtown Chicago’s James R. Thompson Center state office building an example of grandly-scaled, postmodern architecture. The Helmut Jahn-designed structure was built in 1985. The state is considering selling the building.

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Photos Show 2 Great Lakes Electric Cables Were Severed

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) — Officials say underwater photos show two electric cables were severed in what Michigan’s attorney general says was a tugboat anchor strike in the waterway that connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

An investigative team led by the U.S. Coast Guard said April 24 a remotely controlled vehicle had obtained images of the damage site beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The two severed cables were among six owned by American Transmission Co. that are stretched along the lake floor.

Officials said with the visual assessment finished, the company and its contractors plan to cap the ends of the damaged cables to prevent more pollution. About 600 gallons (2,270 liters) of mineral oil insulation fluid spilled into the water when the cables were struck April 1.

Crews have removed about 590 gallons (2,230 liters) that didn’t leak.

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