A freight train blocked traffic for 7 hours. Grayslake leaders call it a 'significant problem.'
A freight train that stalled in Grayslake early Thursday blocked vehicle traffic at two crossings with state highways for nearly seven hours, creating extensive and frustrating delays for drivers and first responders.
Village officials described such blockages as a "significant problem in town," which disrupt traffic through downtown and major intersections and presents challenges for emergency workers.
The train was northbound on the North Central line when it stopped about 6 a.m. due to a mechanical issue, Lake County sheriff's police said. It finally got moving again shortly before 1 p.m.
"A part between two rail cars broke, causing the stoppage until it could be repaired," sheriff's Sgt. Christopher Covelli said.
The train obstructed the Canadian National Railway crossing at Route 83 and Route 120 for all of that time. The crossing at Route 83 and Route 137 was blocked for hours, too -- but the train was able to move from that spot first, police said, allowing cars to get through.
Metra officials also reported delays because of the problem.
Grayslake officials say Canadian National did not notify them of the stoppage.
Covelli said extended blockages of crossing are a significant concern for first responders, particularly when multiple crossings are blocked as was the case Thursday. Sheriff's patrols are divided into five districts throughout the county and deputies from a neighboring district are used when crossings are blocked, he said.
No serious issues regarding emergency responses were reported by Grayslake police or the Grayslake Fire Protection District. Some calls were delayed, but no medical issues were caused as a result, fire district Battalion Chief Joris Lillge said.
"We had multiple calls throughout the day. We had Gurnee come in for one call and Round Lake for another call," he said.
Lillge said there are plans in place for blockages.
"We can always get across (blocked tracks); it's a matter of how long it takes to get across," he said.
The fire protection district operates three stations staffed with firefighters/firemedics and equipment that can respond to emergency medical calls and fires anywhere in the community, said Gregory Koeppen, who serves as one of the Grayslake fire commissioners.
"While the disabled train was a major inconvenience and frustrating to many of us who live in the community, our multiple stations and mutual aid agreements with surrounding departments ensure that our residents are always protected," he said.
Koeppen said state and national legislators need to work with Canadian National for a solution to the "repeated railroad crossing delays we have been plagued with in Grayslake for so many years."
The Federal Railroad Administration recently launched the website www.fra.dot.gov/blockedcrossings to capture data on blocked crossings and help identify chronic situations where trains cause traffic jams and delay first-responders.