Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Local officials urge CN to allow Metra expanded service on Heritage Corridor

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) was joined by more than 20 local officials in urging Canadian National to allow Chicago-area's commuter railroad Metra to expand service on the Heritage Corridor Line and accommodate at least two additional trains a day.

Adding two trains would boost commuter rail service to four round-trips a day in a growing area underserved by public transportation. In a letter led by Lipinski, regional leaders asked CN to work with Metra to accommodate the added service in order to improve employment opportunities for the region's residents and promote long-term economic development and job growth. The request follows on the heels of a letter to CN by newly appointed Metra Board Chairman Brad O'Halloran asking for more service on the line.

"The level of service on the Heritage Corridor Line lags far behind what is offered on other commuter routes on the Metra system. We understand that service is constrained by CN freight traffic and infrastructure limitations, but we believe that modest adjustments in freight schedules would make it is possible to add at least one additional train in the morning and one in the evening," Lipinski said. "We urge CN to act in the public interest and work with Metra to accommodate this improvement as soon as possible so people living in communities served by the Heritage Corridor Line can begin to have commuting options already afforded to others in northeastern Illinois.

"The population in Will County and southwest Cook County has grown substantially the last decade. The Heritage Corridor Line is not keeping pace. This needs to end."

Operated by Metra on tracks owned and managed by CN, the Heritage Corridor

Line runs between Joliet and Chicago's Union Station, stopping in Lockport, Lemont, Willow Springs and Summit. A new station in Romeoville is also in the works. Since 1999, the line has run only six trains a day, three trains in the morning rush hour and three trains in the evening rush hour. Metra's other 10 commuter routes offer between 22 and 170 trains a day, leaving a major mass transit gap in the southwest suburbs.

In the letter to CN, Lipinski and local officials note that between 2000 and

2010, the populations of Romeoville, Joliet and Lockport grew by 88 percent, 39 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Southwest Cook County has also grown during the past 10 years, with the populations of Lemont, Willow Springs and Summit increasing by 22 percent, 10 percent and 4 percent, respectively. At the same time, ridership on the Heritage Corridor Line also expanded. In 2002, 572,488 rides were taken on the line. In 2011, that number was 711,632, a 24 percent increase.

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