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Upgrades planned for Metra’s UP West line

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Improvements to Metra's Union Pacific West Line this spring and summer run the gamut from expediting freight trains to stopping pedestrians from zipping around lowered crossing gates, the Daily Herald reports. The joint Metra/Union Pacific project started in 2009 and will finish in 2011, but commuters in DuPage and Kane counties should see some significant changes this year, officials said at a Metra board meeting.

The West Line between Union
Station and Elburn is UP’s gateway to Chicago, serving about 25 percent of its
freight. It’s also one of Metra’s busiest lines with 60 commuter trains daily
competing with 40 to 60 freight trains.

Union Pacific gives
precedence to Metra trains during morning and afternoon rush hours, which means
"freight trains are backed up to Iowa," Deputy Executive Director of
Operations Bill Tupper said.

The infrastructure fixes
include: modernizing signals between Elmhurst and West Chicago to allow trains
to run closer together; installing two crossovers at Lombard and Wheaton; and
constructing triple tracks in sections where it’s just two tracks between River
Forest and Elmhurst as well as West Chicago and Geneva.

"This will increase
the fluidity of the line," Tupper said.

To save pedestrians from
themselves, Metra plans to erect fencing alongside crossing gates so people
can’t skirt the barriers. Fencing will also go up beyond the platform areas.

"This will reduce the
opportunity for pedestrians to enter the track area at unauthorized
locations," Tupper said.

Work on the safety measures
should finish up this year at stations in Elmhurst, Villa Park, Glen Ellyn,
College Avenue, Winfield and Geneva.

More significant changes
involving a pedestrian tunnel in Lombard and overhead bridge in Wheaton will be
completed in 2011.

In addition, signs advising
commuters when another train is approaching will be installed along with an
audible warning system.

Metra and UP are splitting
the cost of the $112 million upgrade.

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