The solution to Chicago’s railroad gridlock is not money, according to a new report:
One proposal said that rail dispatchers working for each of the six major freight railroads, as well as separate rail traffic dispatchers at Amtrak and Metra should be located in a unified control center to coordinate trains and improve on-time performance. It’s not the first time the idea has been put forth. Most of the track in the U.S. is owned by freight railroads and they generally oppose sharing control…
The panel also said that several rail-modernization projects that have been awaiting funding for years should be prioritized.
One is the 75th Street improvement project near the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago to eliminate rail conflicts at three rail junctions and one rail-roadway crossing. It involves building two flyover structures, almost 30 miles of new track and new bridges at four locations. The project would eliminate the most congested rail chokepoint in the Chicago terminal district, at Belt Junction, where more than 80 Metra and freight trains cross each other’s paths daily, officials said…
The report also called for expediting the Grand Crossing project in Chicago, as well as improving the approximately 40-mile segment of Norfolk Southern’s rail corridor, used by both freight and Amtrak trains, between Chicago and Porter, Ind.
Centralization and clearing up important bottlenecks. Sounds pretty easy, right? Alas, solving these issues takes a lot of time. I’ve been tracking some of these Chicago area railroad gridlock issues for several years (see an earlier example or two) and change is slow. And this isn’t just because of money issues. There are 160 years of history built into the Chicago railroad lines. There are numerous properties around these sites. There are multiple big corporations as well as government levels and bodies involved. Even if these are changes that everyone agrees are good, the wheels of major infrastructure just often do not turn quickly.
I wonder what it might take to get the residents of the Chicago region to see this as a major issue that needs to be addressed. It does affect daily life for many from using commuter train lines, experiencing blocked at-grade crossings, and the noise and pollution generated by nearby trains. Yet, I imagine many area residents don’t know much about the issue and wouldn’t quite be sure how to affect change (assuming a good number wouldn’t want to pay higher taxes to help provide the funding).
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