Lake County Motorist

Suburban Chicagoland commuter and motorist weblog

The new congestion: Freight trains

Driving north on Route 83 as of late, I’ve noticed red white and blue signs popping up in Mundelein yards. The signs list the slogan “People before Freight” and the Web address FightRailCongestion.com.

FightRailCongestion.com is maintained by the Barrington Communities Against CN Rail Congestion, a committee protesting Canadian National Railroad’s intent to increase rail traffic along EJ&E lines from 5 trains per day to 20. They have included Mundelein, through which the EJ&E tracks also run, in their campaign.

The EJ&E tracks cross several roads that may factor into my commute: Route 83, Gilmer Road, Fairfield Road. I don’t know what times of day this traffic would be heaviest, but increased train traffic during rush hours will slow my commute and I am not a fan of that idea. In my experience, commuter trains don’t cause as long of a delay as freight trains and thus any delay might be manageable, but freight trains are another story.

I grew up in the city, near a major street that was frequently blocked by stopped freight trains for 10 minutes or more. Everybody hated to see the railroad gates descending because they knew what they might be in for. When the trains came through, drivers would detour onto the residential streets to bypass the crossing and avoid a long time-wasting wait. Fortunately, many Chicago streets are through streets and a detour will actually get you somewhere. Some of these suburban roads spiral off into cul-de-sacs or a twisted maze that dumps you back where you started.

I realize that freight trains are an important part of commerce, but I hope that the railroads and municipalities will also consider minimizing impact of rail traffic on vehicle traffic.

Not everyone is singing a sad song. By diverting more trains onto the EJ&E tracks, CN is basically shifting the problem from one Lake County village to another. Buffalo Grove stands to win out if the shift is approved, lessening freight train traffic on the Wisconsin Central tracks from 19 trains per day to 2.

As usual, there are trade offs.

The potential transit impact, from a Chicago Tribune article:

The deal also will have an undetermined effect on public transportation. More freight trains could adversely affect plans for Metra’s highly anticipated suburb-to-suburb STAR line, which is years away but is proposed to run on the EJ&E’s track.
However, clearing freight off Canadian National lines could potentially open up more commuter service, particularly on Metra’s North Central line to Antioch and possibly the Heritage Corridor, which runs to Joliet.

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Filed under: Rails, , , , , , ,

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. Ron Pare says:

    I guess the pollution of Trucks is ok to them. Rail travel is highly preferential in the environmental sense.

    Start making signs about interstate congestion maybe someone will listen. Fighting the movement of goods isn’t very responsible.

    I live beside a rail yard and enjoy that allot. I prefer it to truck traffic.

  2. lcmotorist says:

    Thanks Ron for your feedback. I agree that rail transport generates fewer emissions than truck transport, and is preferable for moving large quantities of goods.

    Two things, though:
    1) If I understand correctly the immediate concern is re-routing existing trains, not preventing any trains at all from accessing Chicagoland. Not sure about the entire route traversed by EJ&E tracks, but the Wisconsin Central tracks travel beneath a bridge at Lake-Cook Road and thereby do not affect traffic on this major street. I don’t think there are as many bridges along the EJ&E tracks, which may lead to greater impact on traffic.

    2) The railroad may be able to minimize disruption to the communities by ensuring most train traffic runs through the area during off-peak hours. I haven’t seen details of the planned increase or any info on what times of day would be affected, so they may already be taking this into account.

    Chicago has long been a hub of rail commerce, and rail is important to the area. I do wonder about the infrastructure in place to handle a 4x increase in rail traffic in a relatively short period of time. But, that’s what Barrington and Mundelein can fight with CN about.

    It would be interesting to find out how important of an issue this is to Barrington and Mundelein residents and business owners in general, not just the ones posting the signs. As with anything else involving paper signs stuck in front yards, not every home sports a sign and some residents may not mind the rail traffic at all.

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