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Second train just a whistle away

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Lemont, Ill., officials would like to see more commuter train service for residents this year, and believe it is a real possibility, according to the Lemont Reporter. But a number of things must happen first before the hope comes to fruition, including increased signalization and additional bi-passes along the railroad line to improve safety and ease freight congestion. There also is the construction of a train station in Romeoville and the approval from the railway that owns the tracks.

"The overall goal is to
add more commuter train service," said Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves.

The Heritage Corridor
Alliance has been working with local, state and federal lawmakers, Metra, Amtrak
and Canadian National Railway, the owners of the tracks along the Heritage
Corridor Line, said Reaves. Metra officials have indicated they have the
existing equipment and personnel to add one more train that would pick up in
mid-morning and return in mid-afternoon, Reaves said.

Metra, however, only
leases the property, and needs to seek approval from CN to add another commuter
train. CN has indicated it would like to do a capacity study first to see how
the line currently runs.

"CN is one of the big stepping
stones now because they own the tracks," Reaves said. "But from everything
we’ve been told and the correspondence that we’ve seen, Canadian National is
being a good partner."

An intergovernmental,
multi-billion dollar program to alleviate traffic congestion between freight
trains, commuter trains and vehicles will also help the alliance get its extra
commuter train, he said.

The Chicago Region
Environmental and Transportation Efficiency, or CREATE program is designed to
improve rail congestion and enhance safety. Besides the program, signalization
upgrades and the doubling of track will be needed to make way for the
Chicago-St. Louis corridor, a high-speed rail service that Illinois will fund
with $1.2 billion in federal stimulus money. The project will add seven Amtrak
trains per day coming through the Heritage Corridor Line, Reaves said.

While a large portion of
the money is going to improvements downstate, the alliance has also been
working to get upgrades along the Heritage Corridor, Reaves said.

"We’re trying to make
sure we emphasize to the state, Congress and everybody, this money also has to
go from Joliet to downtown for the track separation, grade separation and quiet
zones," Reaves said.

Romeoville recently
completed a parking lot and Metra has budgeted funding for the construction of
a station, a move that would help alleviate congestion at the Lemont station,
Reaves said.

Other than the potential
for minor costs associated with studies, the village will not have to fund the
addition for another commuter train, said Lemont Village Administrator Ben
Wehmeier.

A midday commuter train
would be a huge addition for working parents who have children who have a
doctor appointment or get sick and need to be picked up, Reaves said.

"We think that’s going to
be a big benefit for people who do use the train to go downtown to work," he
said. "Just the convenience of having that earlier train to get back and forth,
it’s a quality of life issue."

Despite the number of
parties needed to make the addition of a commuter train a reality, village
officials are optimistic it will get done by the fall.

"Everyone seems to be
headed in the same direction, which is a positive," Wehmeier said.

"I think we’re very close
to getting this ball rolling," Reaves said. "Metra’s got the equipment and the
people to run it, it’s just a matter of them having CN’s blessing and then we
can have a big ribbon cutting and have the first midday Metra train come in."

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