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Rep. Rush, Activists March On Metra Over Project’s Lack Of Minority Contracts

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Metra Protest

Activists protested in front of Metra headquarters Thursday, over a lack of minority contracts for the Englewood Flyover project. (Credit: Craig Dellimore/WBBM Newsradio/CBS)

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UPDATED 05/03/12 – 1:27 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) led a protest march Thursday, asking Metra to restart the bidding process on the Englewood Flyover project on the city’s South Side.

As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, Rush led the march on Metra headquarters, 547 W. Jackson Blvd., on Thursday morning, in chants of “If we don’t work, nobody works.”

Several other African-American community leaders participated, including Mark Allen of Black Wall Street of Chicago, and Wallace “Gator” Bradley of United in Peace.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

WBBM Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Rush and fellow U.S. Rep Danny Davis (D-Ill.) led hundreds of protesters outside Metra Headquarters, protesting the fact virtually no minority firms were picked when Metra bid the $133 million contract for the flyover bridge in Englewood.

Rush said he wants the contract rebid to more accurately represent the African-American community as it hungers for jobs.

Rush said less than $100,000 of the $133 million contract has been awarded to an African-American contractor. He said that’s unacceptable.

“They need to cut us in on the contracts, or cut the contracts out,” Rush said. “Cut us in on the jobs, or cut the jobs out.”

Metra said the low bidder on the contract is meeting a goal of 25 percent business for disadvantaged subcontractors, but that category includes businesses owned by women and other minorities.

Rush wants the contract re-bid. He has said previously that he would stop Metra in its tracks over the contract for the construction of the Englewood Flyover – for which Rush himself was present for the groundbreaking.

His cause has won the support of three of the state’s top elected officials. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are all backing him.

“If somebody says, ‘Well, do you like the tactic?’ whatever? Forget the tactic,” Mayor Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference last week. “He’s got people’s attention, which means you’re going to get a solution to this problem.”

“I don’t want to shut it down,” Durbin said last week. “But I want to join him in putting pressure on those who are involved in it to move toward more diversity employment; more Illinois employment.”

“We want to make sure there is diversity in the workforce, as well as those who are doing it,” Quinn said last week.

The total cost of the federally-funded project is $133 million. It will involve the construction of a north-south bridge to carry Metra Rock Island Line trains over east-west Amtrak Norfolk Southern trains and transcontinental freight tracks above 64th and State streets, eliminating a bottleneck that currently snags the lines.

The north-south Metra tracks serve 78 Metra trains daily, and the east-west trains serve 14 Amtrak and 46 freight trains. On average, a train comes through the intersection every 10 minutes, causing congestion.

When the bridge is completed in the spring of 2014, it will also include space underneath to create a high-speed railroad from Chicago to St. Louis.

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