Plans for making Chicago flow

October 2, 2015

Study takes aim at rail gridlock in Chicago

More money alone will not solve the rail gridlock that is choking the flow of freight and passenger trains through northern Illinois and Indiana, a report released on Thursday concluded.

An array of improved operating strategies as well as some new investment are needed to remove the speed bumps from the busiest rail hub in the U.S., said the report, which was commissioned by Amtrak, whose passengers regularly face major delays traveling through the greater Chicago region.Website Insert Gathering of Professionals 1 copy

 One proposal said that rail dispatchers working for each of the six major freight railroads, as well as separate rail traffic dispatchers at Amtrak and Metra should be located in a unified control center to coordinate trains and improve on-time performance. It’s not the first time the idea has been put forth. Most of the track in the U.S. is owned by freight railroads and they generally oppose sharing control.

“If you had every airline at O’Hare airport with their own air traffic controller doing everything on their own, it would be a mess,” said Howard Learner, who served on a four-member panel appointed by Amtrak last year to produce the report with the help of consultants. Learner is executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.

The panel also said that several rail-modernization projects that have been awaiting funding for years should be prioritized.

One is the 75th Street improvement project near the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago to eliminate rail conflicts at three rail junctions and one rail-roadway crossing. It involves building two flyover structures, almost 30 miles of new track and new bridges at four locations. The project would eliminate the most congested rail chokepoint in the Chicago terminal district, at Belt Junction, where more than 80 Metra and freight trains cross each other’s paths daily, officials said.

Read Chicago Tribune reporter John Hilkevitch’s full story by clicking here.


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