Barrington asking feds to make CN help fund proposed underpass

  • This rendering shows the proposed underpass project at Northwest Highway in Barrington. The village recently petitioned the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to force the Canadian National railroad to pay $47 million to help build the underpass.

    This rendering shows the proposed underpass project at Northwest Highway in Barrington. The village recently petitioned the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to force the Canadian National railroad to pay $47 million to help build the underpass. Submitted by the Village of Barrington

  • Barrington officials are again asking federal transportation authorities to order the Canadian National railroad to pay $47 million toward the construction of an underpass below the rail crossing at Northwest Highway, just east of Route 59.

    Barrington officials are again asking federal transportation authorities to order the Canadian National railroad to pay $47 million toward the construction of an underpass below the rail crossing at Northwest Highway, just east of Route 59. Daily Herald File Photo, 2011

 
 
Updated 1/27/2015 6:21 PM

While Barrington officials say they are pleased federal authorities granted their request to extend the monitoring period on Canadian National rail for two more years, they are still waiting to see if the government will force the railroad to pony up $47 million to build an underpass at a Northwest Highway crossing.

The Surface Transportation Board last month extended the monitoring period until Jan. 23, 2017, citing concerns about additional freight traffic in the region.

 

Barrington Village President Karen Darch said increased rail traffic through the community is a significant concern because four crossings in town are separated by just 6,000 feet. As a result, she said, a long freight train could prevent emergency vehicles from responding to situations on the other side of the tracks.

The village's proposed solution is carving out an underpass beneath the tracks on Northwest Highway east of Route 59, so there is at least one crossing in town that won't be shut down. The project, which has been approved by the state, is estimated to cost $55 million to $65 million.

So far the village has raised several million dollars for the project through grants, but wants CN to pay for the rest.

In a reply filed with STB weeks after Barrington's $47 million request, CN argued that the agency should deny the request as it has similar petitions in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

"Barrington has pre-existing traffic problems which the (STB) board rightly decided would not be solved by requiring CN to pay for a grade separation and should not be a basis for requiring CN to pay tens of millions of additional dollars," CN's response to Barrington's petition reads.

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Darch maintains that the evidence suggests the delays could get worse.

In October 2014, there were 1,620 blocked railway crossings lasting 10 minutes or more along the rail system CN purchased from Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Company in 2009. In October 2009, there were just nine, according to CN data.

Of those October delays, more than 100 occurred in Aurora. There were 11 in Barrington, including a pre-dawn train stopped for 44 minutes, according to the data.

The matter is back before the STB, which previously awarded money to Aurora and Lynwood, other suburbs which argued that increased CN rail traffic required them to build overpasses.

"We got zero and we're saying, 'Hey we're very much like those two (communities),'" Darch said.

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