Suburban traffic trapped by train, Barrington edition

Combining the issues posed by numerous at-grade crossings in the Chicago area plus the purchase of the EJ&E tracks by Canadian National, an afternoon rush hour situation arose June 12 in the suburb of Barrington because of a stopped freight train:

Among the thousands of vehicles caught in the jam were ambulances headed to Good Shepherd Hospital with two patients from a DUI crash at Ela Road and Northwest Highway…

As first-responders quickly found out, all four CN crossings — at Main Street, Hough Street (Route 59), Northwest Highway and Lake Zurich Road — were inaccessible, and trains on an intersecting rail line also backed up…

While traffic gridlock spiraled, Barrington police who had coalesced south of the tracks to handle the DUI crash reached out to neighboring departments. “Can you please let Lake Zurich PD, Lake County and Barrington Hills know on our northwest side we have no officers on right now. So if we need assistance we’ll be calling them,” a dispatcher asked.

As she idled in traffic, Barrington resident Erika Olivares tried to troubleshoot how to reach her 8-month-old son, Leo, before day care closed. “Basically I was panicking,” she recalled Thursday.

Some desperate commuters ducked under train cars to reach the opposite side. “There are numerous people who are actually crawling over the train that’s stopped here,” a 911 caller reported. “It’s getting more and more dangerous — there are kids doing it as well.”

Several quick thoughts:

  1. I would guess the winning issue on which to focus to solve this problem are the safety concerns. If people cannot make it to the hospital or police and fire units cannot make it to scenes, lives in the community may be endangered. Even though it would be interesting to look at how many safety cases are involved on an annual basis, the argument that even one endangered life is too many would likely convince many suburbanites.
  2. The traffic caused by such an incident is experienced by numerous Chicago area suburbs. Lots of at-grade crossings add up to the potential for outraged drivers. Even if rail lines move tremendous amounts of goods, the backups may leave the average suburbanite with the impression that the trains are foremost a nuisance.
  3. The fallout of the Canadian National purchase of the EJ&E tracks continues. What is potentially lost in stories like this from Barrington about changes in communities are the effects on the entire region. One of the outcomes of the purchase was to be that more freight traffic would be rerouted around the region rather than to areas closer to the city with further inconveniences to those communities. The Chicago area has long had problems with too many trains yet it is a vital part of the local and national economy.

Wait, they are “practically giving away” “suburban mega-McMansions”?

Curbed Chicago returns to a listing for a 19,438 square foot suburban home and notes the reduced price:

Demand for suburban McMansions is so low that some owners are practically giving them away. Take for instance this totally redonkulous 19,438 square foot home set on a 10 acre parcel of prime Barrington Hills real estate. It’s gone on and off the market since 2010, when it was originally listed for $10.5 million. Today, it can be had for $4.75 million. Its ask is now less than half of what it was when it first listed four years ago. This McMansion joins many others in the Barrington area to take huge price chops. While the value of most homes in the city have begun to rise again since the 2008 foreclosure crisis, large suburban McMansions continue to feel the hurt. The good news is, if you’ve always wanted to live the 1990s MTV Cribs lifestyle, it can now be had for about half the price.

Large home with lots of features. Yet…

1. The price may have been cut by half but it is still $4.75 million. In fact, this price reduction may not indicate that the owner is ready to give this away but rather that it was overpriced to begin with. I think the piece is trying to imply that the demand for “mega-McMansions” is low so the price was cut but we would need some more evidence before jumping to that conclusion.

2. What exactly is a “mega-McMansion”? The square footage puts this home way out of reach of the normal suburban McMansion owner as does the price. The home may not be pleasing to everyone – I’m thinking the pool room looks most desirable – but it is a scale above McMansions. Again, tying a home like this to the term McMansion is intended to add another layer of criticism that “mansion” just doesn’t add.