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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Amtrak eyes moving Ill. station

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A plan is in the works to eliminate some of the lengthy stoppages on Glenview Road caused by train traffic at the downtown Glenview, Ill., train station, the Sun-Times reports. If the General Assembly, Glenview and Metra make good on their funding pieces, Amtrak officials have agreed to move the stops for the Hiawatha and Empire Builder routes from the downtown Glenview Metra station to The Glen of North Glenview station.

The deal was brokered by state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-8th, who has been trying for years to get the governments to address the congestion the trains cause on Glenview Road.

Amtrak trains on the two routes between Chicago and Milwaukee stop a total of 14 times a day in Glenview, which keeps the railroad gates down a total of 45 minutes a day, according to a Glenview study. Amtrak's station in Glenview has the second largest number of riders in the Chicago area, behind only Chicago's Union Station.

Key to the deal is a $250,000 earmark Schoenberg secured in the transportation portion of the $31-billion capital construction program the General Assembly approved in July. That would pay for relocating pedestrian crossings and outfitting the station agent office with technology at the North Glenview station, as required by Metra.

Glenview would match that $250,000 to construct a warming shelter on the east side of the railroad tracks, similar to the existing shelter on the west side.

Metra would pick up the tab for engineering designs, and commit to providing staff full-time at the North Glenview station and continue staffing the downtown Glenview station.

"Over the past few months it was touch and go as to whether we would be able to reach an agreement, but we were successful in achieving a final deal between the three government agencies," Schoenberg said. "It required some shuttle diplomacy to convince Metra that this was a good thing to do."

Glenview Village Manager Todd Hileman said an intergovernmental agreement could be drafted and considered by the Village Board in about three months. That means the improvements could begin in spring of 2010.

Hileman said an Amtrak train was stopped at the North Glenview station to test how it would work. He said the train was a far enough distance from the Chestnut Avenue intersection so that the gates did not have to be lowered.

Aside from the traffic impact, Schoenberg said having the Amtrak operation at the North Glenview station would be a boost for Glen businesses, including the Kohl Children's Museum and those in the North Shore Corporate Park.

"This is without a doubt a win-win situation for everyone, and very sound investment in solving traffic congestion and for economic development in Glenview," he said.