Chicago suburb pays up to fight Amtrak Hiawatha project

Written by Kyra Senese, managing editor
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Photo Credit: Amtrak / Jason Berg

Glenview, Ill., a village about 15 miles from Chicago, has reportedly approved spending a significant chunk of funding to continue its opposition efforts in regards to the proposed Amtrak Hiawatha project.

The Glenview Board of Trustees approved the allocation of $105,000 from the village’s 2019 budget at a recent meeting. Glenview now plans to spend a total of more than $500,000 to oppose the project.

In October of 2016, the Chicago Tribune reports that the Federal Railroad Administration and the Wisconsin and Illinois departments of transportation proposed boosting service on the Amtrak Hiawatha line, which travels from Chicago to Milwaukee with a stop in Glenview along the way, from seven to 10 round trips, according to the project’s draft environmental assessment.

Officials and local residents have raised concerns regarding two proposed options: building a 10,000-foot freight train holding track on the east side of the two existing Metra tracks or constructing an 11,000-foot freight train holding track on the west side of the existing tracks that span from Glenview to Northbrook.

Building the freight train holding track would require that a retaining wall with a 10-foot or 20-foot height would need to be built to hold the rail bed, according to the Chicago Tribune. However, building the retaining wall would also cut down on the amount of green space available to offer a buffer between residential areas and existing tracks.

The proposed work would also require that two new single-track bridges be built. The agencies involved also suggest installing a universal crossover switch on the Metra tracks, but village staff is concerned that trains traveling over the switches will be loud and there will be an increased possibility of derailments, the report said.

Officials suggest that expanding Hiawatha service will help mitigate near-capacity and over-capacity conditions for peak time service, allowing passengers more flexibility with train time options and addressing “inadequate service reliability” as a result of conflicts with freight and passenger traffic along the corridor, according to the article.

In May of 2018, the village board approved a $400,000 fund to oppose the project, stating that the project would not sufficiently address the community’s transportation needs and citing a lack of data regarding the project’s environmental impact, the Tribune reported.

Of the  approved $400,000 fund, the board gave the green light to a contract for $160,000 with Transportation Economics & Management Systems Inc. to study the line’s capacity. The village spent about $380,000 of the funds in 2018, the report states.

In a unanimous vote of approval, Glenview approved further spending last week by allotting $105,000 to continue its opposition efforts regarding the project. Of the $105,000, the village will use $10,000 to continue its contract with Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications, according to a staff report.

Another $20,000 will keep intact a contract with Transportation Economics & Management Systems Inc. for engineering and modeling, the report states.

The village is also expected to allocate $71,000 toward state and federal lobbying initiatives regarding the project, according to the report. Glenview staff and rail officials plan to meet and study and model alternatives to the holding track in late January, the Tribune reports.

Categories: Intercity, OFF Track Maintenance, Passenger, Regulatory, Safety/Training
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