If you are waiting longer at Chicago area rail road crossings and experiencing more delays on board passenger trains, you are not alone. The gridlock is getting the attention of US lawmakers, who want to find more ways to speed up commuter and freight trains in the Chicago area.
The House Committee on Appropriations approved a spending bill that would require a full analysis of Chicagoland’s rail system in order to prioritize Federal Railroad Administration funding. The goal is to identify train congestion bottlenecks that could lead to improvement projects. House members also want to improve communication between commuter and freight operators and possibly utilize the Federal Railroad Administration as a mediator.
“Right now, passengers in Chicago experience long delays and drivers wait at crossings for disproportionately long periods,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL 5th District). “My hope is that directing FRA to take a closer look at this issue will lead to improvements in the system for everyone.”
Every day, 1300 trains compete for the same tracks across the Chicago area. NBC 5 Investigates also found some drivers wait up to ten minutes or more at crossings.
The American Association of Railroads said keeping passenger and freight trains running on time is complex and best handled through a legitimate partnership that balances the needs of freight shippers and passengers.
An AAR spokesperson said, “We look forward to seeing the recommendations and working with our industry partners to keep this important network safe and efficient.”
Metra said it operates most trains on-time every day, but acknowledged interference from freight and passenger trains remains the cause of a number of delays.
“We would welcome a review by the Federal Railroad Administration and would be receptive to any suggested changes and any financial assistance to implement them,” said Metra spokesperson Michael Gillis.
A spokesperson for Amtrak said recent collaborative efforts between the railroads, the City of Chicago, Cook County and the State of Illinois to improve rail congestion has slowed due to delayed funding, which has lead to $800 billion in extra costs to the public.
“If the House action becomes law, we look forward to a faster path forward to complete the 75th Street coordinator improvement and the other passenger-centric projects in Illinois and Indiana identified by CREATE and the Chicago Gateway study.
The Chicago area rail system analysis and spending plan still needs approval from the full House, the Senate and the President.