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Train Traffic Set to Spike in Evergreen Park

Railroad officials recently told the Evergreen Park Village Board that train traffic could rise from four trains per day to 23.

A delegation of railroad officials told Evergreen Park leaders on Monday of their plans to gradually but significantly increase the volume of local rail traffic that rolls past the front door of Village Hall. 

Specifically, CSX Transportation (CSXT) officials announced that pending an anticipated federal approval, rail traffic will increase from the current four trains a day to as many as 23 trains daily over the next several years, drawing gasps from a few audience members and concerns from several trustees. 

Tom Livingston, CSXT Regional Vice President - Midwest Government Affairs, said the planned increase would be phased in over a five year period starting in mid-2013. 

CSXT officials claimed that the increase in local rail traffic will be minimally disruptive---noting that their trains typically move at a 35-40 mile-per-hour clip; that a train will take only about two and a half minutes at a typical grade crossing, and that the plan calls for the trains not to be hindered by the slowdowns or stop/starts characterized by other rail companies. 

CSXT officials do not need the formal approval of village officials and were not asking for any, but said they were there as a good neighbor essentially paying a courtesy call. 

Village officials voiced several concerns about the planned increase. One major concern of Mayor James Sexton and others was increased rail traffic hampering response times and effectiveness of first responders like firefighters, paramedics and police.

The mayor spoke about the importance of 95th Street as a major path for ambulances to Little Company of Mary Hospital, as well as Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center in Oak Lawn, the area’s only Level I trauma center. 

Even though Livingston said there was a way to call CSX to have the train stopped and cars unhooked in an emergency, Sexton said, “First responders don’t have time to make calls.” 

Livingston only had a one word reply to Sexton, when Sexton asked if the railroad company considered building an underpass, “Yes.” 

The trains would run seven days a week, except during weekday rush hours, 5 to 9 a.m. in the morning and 4 to 7:30 p.m. in the evening. Trustee Mark Marzullo indicated rush hours started earlier in Evergreen Park and invited train officials to observe traffic at 3 p.m. 

In response to Trustee Mary Keane’s question on what the train cars would be carrying, John Bradley, Chicago division chief, explained the cars would include materials such as electronics or supermarket items—essentially the same as they carry now.

 “I lived close to railroad tracks,” added Trustee James McQuillan in a concern he voiced about the length and weight of the freight cars, “and you could tell when they were loaded with something heavy. The whole house shook.” 

Livingston responded by saying CSXT wants to maintain a quiet zone and would weld the tracks together to reduce train noise. The process usually takes two weeks for each section of track welded together. The whole operation would occur over a few years. 

Rail officials pledged to stay in contact with hospitals and emergency personnel about the train schedules, which can change every few months. 

“We’re confident we can make this work,” Livingston said.  

Background 

Nearly three months ago, CSX submitted an application to the federal Surface Transportation Board “…to acquire a 22.37-mile exclusive, perpetual nonassignable railroad operating easement” that runs between Chicago’s Southwest Side (the Elsdon Yard) and Munster, Indiana, from the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company.

According to the CSX application, “the benefits of the proposed transaction will be CSXT's more efficient operation in the Chicago Terminal, saving CSXT in excess of $2 million per year and reducing congestion on other lines within the Chicago Terminal that CSXT is using today.”

CSX’s application notes that its trains typically have an average train length of 5,400 to 6,000 feet and an average weight of 5,500 to 6,300 tons per train. “CSXT does not expect that the rerouting of trains from their current routes to the Elsdon Line will result in material changes in average train length, average tonnage, or commodity profile,” their application states. 

R Gibbons November 08, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Wow!! I'm speechless...
R Gibbons November 08, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Too bad there weren't representatives from both hospitals for input!
BH November 08, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Elevate the tracks thru the area
R Gibbons November 08, 2012 at 07:15 PM
The center of Evergreen Park would never be the same if the built an overpass. Look at 111th between Cicero and Central. How many businesses and homes could be lost to eminent domain in the vicinity of 94th/95th And Kedzie? And schools are accessed as children cross these busy intersections. Very dangerous situation!
Mary Jean Busking November 08, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Even if they are correct (which I doubt very much) in saying the trains would only tie up the crossing for 2.5 minutes, 23 trains a day would total 57.5 minutes, almost an hour. It is a safety issue. If CSXt wants to save $2 million a year, they should be willing to put in an overpass. Village officials need to contact the Federal Surface Transportation Board and let them know of our safety and traffic concerns. This is totally unacceptable.
Mr. Winters November 08, 2012 at 11:19 PM
CSX will get what they want no matter how much the community protests. They will run the trains when they want and they won't change for anyone.
Bucephalus November 09, 2012 at 12:30 AM
If they want to save 2 million a year they should pay for a 20-50 million dollar underpass? That's an odd interpretation. But what everybody seems to be forgetting is that CSX is already running those trains through Evergreen Park. Look at the application map, which is neatly provided here by the Patch. CSX is currently routing those trains up the tracks on the east side of Mount Hope, through the Evergreen Club, and on the west side of Beverly. Those crossings are going to clear up a lot.
EP Lover November 09, 2012 at 03:07 AM
"One major concern of Mayor James Sexton and others was increased rail traffic hampering response times and effectiveness of first responders like firefighters, paramedics and police. The mayor spoke about the importance of 95th Street as a major path for ambulances to Little Company of Mary Hospital, as well as Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center in Oak Lawn, the area’s only Level I trauma center." It takes a set of brass ones for Sexton to say that. With the Meijer/Menards development, it was SPECIFICALLY pointed out to him that ambulances would have more congestion on 95th St. when trying to get to Little Co./Christ Hospitals, and that Christ is a Lev I Trauma Ctr. Jimmy Sexton didn't seem to much care then, but now that EP is getting "railroaded" by CSX, "OH NO! Think of the first responders!"
J November 09, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Are these tracks behind the houses on Utica?
R Gibbons November 09, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Yes
EP Lover November 09, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I'm not a huge fan of the Meijer's/Menards development. However, I think that there is a big difference between a probable increase in traffic congestion (that can and should yield to emergency vehicles) and a freight train completely blocking 95th street for several minutes at a time. I hope the village is able to push back on this issue. .
marco mataya May 18, 2013 at 12:25 AM
A lot of people like myself are rail fans and love the trains. Bring them on. I love living by the tracks and wish they still allowed the train horns.
marco mataya May 18, 2013 at 12:29 AM
I remember spending time listening to my father read us bedtime stories when we were kids. We would hear the train whistles as we fell asleep. There's something nostalgic about the railroads. These were some of the most pleasant memories from our childhood.

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