New Track Between Melrose Park and River Forest Could Mean Less Waiting For Slow Or Idle Freight Trains, Says UP Official

Freight trains

Friday, February 12, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

Officials from Union Pacific Railroad (UP) were on hand during a Feb. 10 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting to update Maywood residents on the fourth, and final, phase of a $165 million overhaul of the Union Pacific West Line (UP-W), one of the busiest rail lines in the country, according to UP officials.

Lisa Stark, a public affairs representative for UP, said that construction on a 1.8 mile-long third track between the UP’s Vale Interlocking Facility in River Forest and 25 Avenue in Melrose Park, could begin later this year or early 2017. Construction could last for roughly 12 months, she said.

The additional rail line means that fewer drivers would have to wait as their engines idle on 25th Avenue, for instance, as a freight train sits on the tracks, Stark said.

“We have to curfew our freight trains during the morning and evening commute hours,” she said. “What that means is we aren’t running freight trains in the morning between 6 AM and 9 AM and in the afternoon rush hour from 4 PM to 7 PM. We essentially get a rail traffic jam. Trains line up all the way across Illinois and back up into Iowa.”

That translates into pretty angry drivers who get caught at crossings by a seemingly unending trail of containers moving at a glacial pace.

Metra and UP officials say that, in all, the $165 million overhaul includes the addition of eight miles of track on the UP-W line and will result in reduced motorist wait times at grade crossings, fewer idling freight trains, reduced commuter and freight rail congestion, fewer commuter and freight train delays and safer crossings (the improvements also include the installation of an upgraded rail signal system and station improvements).

But the final phase, the installation of that additional 1.8 mile track between River Forest and Melrose Park, won’t come without its complications.

Residents should expect temporary road closures at 1st, 5th and 9th Avenues during the track’s construction.

Rick Conrad, with the engineering firm Alfred Benesch and Company, said the streets in the immediate vicinity of the tracks will need to be modified in order to accommodate pedestrians and become ADA compliant.

First and 5th Avenues are both owned by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), so their modifications will be regulated by the state. Since 9th Ave. is owned by the village, its modification will be regulated according to local laws.

Conrad and Stark said those three roads won’t be closed simultaneously and that the closures might last for roughly six weeks.

Some residents at the Feb. 10 meeting, however, expressed concerns about what the track construction might do to local traffic and road conditions — and what entity will bear the economic burdens associated with construction complications, such as damage done to the village’s already stressed streets.

Stark said she couldn’t answer those questions immediately, but that railroad officials would coordinate with village officials in the coming weeks to discuss the construction process and to devise a plan to inform residents of future developments.

No Quorum at Feb. 10 committee meeting

A Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting scheduled for Feb. 10 just wasn’t meant to be.

Only three people on the Maywood Board of Trustees — Mayor Edwenna Perkins and Trustees Isiah Brandon and Michael Rogers — showed up. Trustees Antoinette Dorris, Melvin Lightford, Ron Rivers and Henderson Yarbrough were absent.

According to Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr., most trustees stated ahead of time that they’d be absent.

But some of the night’s proceedings, such as public presentations by Union Pacific Railroad officials and the Maywood Fire Department, went ahead.

Without a quorum, or the minimum number of trustees required to be in attendance in order to conduct village business, trustees were required to sit in the audience during public presentations and could not speak in their official capacities as trustees. The village manager facilitated the meeting. VFP

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