Residents say CN's plan to add a second track will cause noise and pollution

White-tailed deer are ubiquitous in the heavily wooded Chapel Creek neighborhood near Elgin, but the sight of does and bucks foraging for food still excites residents.

"Deer!" Paul Halverson calls out to neighbors who beam as a small herd bounds up a steep slope onto the CN railway tracks. The smiles fade as homeowners describe concerns about noise, vibration and pollution they fear could result from the railroad's plan to add a second track.

"First off, it will be more dangerous in the area because they're talking about increasing the number of trains," said Ron Dutner, who lives in the nearby Rolling Knolls Estates subdivision. "If there was a derailment ... it would likely contaminate all our wells and affect our septics, and that's drastic."

The Canadian National Railroad is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to construct a 4.27-mile-long second track adjoining the existing mainline track between Hoffman Estates and Elgin. The new rails would run between Shoe Factory and Spaulding roads and west of Poplar Creek Forest Preserve.

CN said the new and existing tracks would create a 6-mile reliever allowing an "uninterrupted flow" of northbound and southbound freight trains.

"The project will enhance the safe and efficient flow of rail traffic including the Milwaukee District West Line of Metra," CN spokesman Alexandre Boulé said. "Commuters should also see reduced delays at Shoe Factory Road."

Metra officials could not confirm CN's assertions.

The Army Corps is involved because CN's plan to mitigate impacts to Poplar Creek and its tributaries, which connect to the Fox River downstream, requires government approval under the Clean Water Act.

The CN tracks in question once belonged to the smaller EJ & E Railroad, and the merger of the two sparked an uproar in 2008. While shifting some of CN's gargantuan freights onto the EJ & E reduced train traffic in some suburbs, it also spiked the number of trains in towns from Mundelein to Barrington to Aurora.

Before the merger, "we'd have a train once a week or so," said Cheryl Pawlak, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1984. Now, "the other night I couldn't sleep because of trains ... there was one every 15 minutes."

With another track close to their homes, it can only get worse, emphasized residents, who reported cracks in ceilings and objects falling off shelves or walls because of train vibrations. More trains will harm property values and people's health, they contend.

As Owen Fields, 2, and his brother Connor, 4, scamper around, their mother Amy indicates a wire fence among the oak trees that separates her backyard from the CN tracks. "We don't know where they're building. It's all unknown right now, which is the scary part," she said.

Residents are pushing for answers and have until April 15 to comment to the Army Corps through letters or online.

Halverson contends authorities are doing the bare minimum to inform residents and local governments.

"What are they hiding?" he asked. "It is not good public policy to withhold information and limit communication."

The Army Corps "is committed to protecting the nation's aquatic resources and navigation capacity, while allowing reasonable development through fair and balanced decisions," spokesman Patrick Bray said.

What's next? The Army Corps will forward comments to CN and require the railroad to respond, Bray said. CN also must hold a public meeting at a date yet to be announced.

Got an opinion on the second track or any freight railroad issues? Drop an email to

One more thing

The Army Corps will accept comments by email to the project manager at or letters to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, Regulatory Branch, Attention: LRC-2018-00651, Mr. Soren Hall, 231 South LaSalle St., Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60604-1437. For information, go to

Gridlock alert

Heading south on County Line Road in Elmhurst?


The Illinois tollway will close southbound County Line between Grand Avenue and Romans Road today for utility work related to the Central Tri-State widening. Detours will be posted.

The work lasts through late summer.

A first in McHenry County

If you're in the Marengo vicinity it will be easier to get on and off I-90 by the end of the year. Illinois tollway crews began constructing a full-access interchange costing $33.4 million at Route 23 and the Jane Addams Tollway last week.

The project includes four ramps and roundabouts on Route 23 and is the first interstate connection in McHenry County. The tollway will share the expense with Marengo, McHenry County and the state.

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  Residents along the CN railroad tracks near Elgin say a proposed second track would increase the risk of derailments and cause more train vibrations that damage their homes. John Starks/
The CN railroad wants to add a second track adjoining the existing mainline track between Hoffman Estates and Elgin.
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