Canadian National plan to reduce train delays in Lake County gets support from board

A plan by Canadian National Railroad that would reduce delays at crossings and improve commuter rail and freight service in Lake County has received another official endorsement.

The Lake County Board this week joined Metra, Antioch, Round Lake Beach and Grayslake in supporting the plan to add a second track between Hook Drive in Round Lake Beach and Lake Avenue in Grayslake.

Double tracking that stretch is in CN's 10-year plan but with community endorsement may happen sooner, supporters say. Delays for slow-moving or stopped trains have been an issue in Grayslake, which has five rail crossings.

Village officials and Lake County Board member John Wasik, who lives in town, have been pursuing the matter for about three years.

Wasik told constituents that while the project wouldn't reduce the overall number of freight trains, it could cut the amount of time waiting for stopped trains.

"The best thing is the railroad will pay for the improvements - no taxpayer money will be used," he said.

The second track would be used when needed to allow other trains to pass.

That would eliminate a bottleneck in the system, allow Metra, which shares the tracks, to improve and possibly expand its North Central Service, and reduce delays for emergency vehicles at crossings.

Metra strongly supports the plan as a benefit for its riders, nonusers and Lake County residents.

"Freight interference is routinely a top cause of delay for Metra trains, and this project will decrease these occurences on the NCS, improving on-time performance and overall passenger rail and freight operations in the corridor," according to Metra CEO/Executive Director James M. Derwinski.

In a letter of support to Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, Derwinski said the project also would improve operations on the Milwaukee District North Line by eliminating conflicts where it crosses the North Central elsewhere in Grayslake.

He said there were 1.58 million passenger trips on the North Central line in 2019 and demand likely will increase due to forecast growth in Lake County by 2050.

Metra has been unable to explore expanded reverse-commute service options due to infrastructure limitations and freight traffic demands, he added.

"This double tracking project is a necessary step toward easing rail congestion in the corridor and possibly exploring expanded Metra service in the future to serve the ridership demands," he told Hart.

He described Canadian National as a "supportive partner" in the North Central corridor that contributes to bridge repairs and replacements.

Stacey Lyons, Canadian National's manager of government and public affairs, said, "CN strives to be a good neighbor in the communities we operate and continue to invest millions in Illinois to ensure our network moves safely and reliably."

Double tracking is recommended in Lake County's 2040 Transportation Plan. Railroad bridges that replaced at-grade crossings on Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach and Washington Street in Grayslake in recent years, for example, were built to accommodate a second track when the time came.

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Double tracking a 2.2-mile stretch of the Canadian National Railroad between Round Lake Beach and Grayslake would remove a bottleneck, reduce traffic delays at crossings and improve commuter rail and freight operations, supporters say. Courtesy of Lake County
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