Rep. Newman Ald. O’Shea announce improvements to eliminate train blockages
As a result of a working group with Rep. Newman, Ald. O’Shea, CSX, The Chicago Transportation Coordination Office, and state and local officials, new processes are in place to eliminate road-rail conflicts, avoid first responder delays, and reduce traffic congestion on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
Today, U.S. Representative Marie Newman (D-IL-03) and Alderman Matt O’Shea (19th Ward) announced successful efforts in significantly reducing road-rail conflicts and traffic congestion that have been caused by freight trains on Chicago’s Southwest Side for years.
As a result of a working group convened between local officials and freight and commuter rail operators, new reporting processes are now in place to not only address rail congestion and greatly reduce intermittent traffic blockages but also ensure local emergency vehicles are no longer delayed by stalled trains when responding to emergencies.
“For years now, train congestion on Chicago’s Southwest Side has not only disrupted the daily life of thousands of residents but also, at times, blocked first responders from responding to local emergencies in the community. In one of my first actions in Congress, I immediately convened local stakeholders to ensure these blockages are finally addressed and mitigated,” said Congresswoman Newman.
“Thanks to the commitment of local officials and the train operators, I’m proud to say that in just a matter of months, the processes developed by our working group have resulted in significant reductions in train blockages across all communities on the Southwest Side. While our work is far from done here, we will continue to hold all parties accountable to ensure this latest progress becomes a long-term solution.”
Since the implementation of these new reporting processes, road-rail crossings in the 19th Ward and Evergreen Park have seen a reduction in blockages of more than 10 minutes, according to data from train operator, CSX. In fact, several road-rail crossings, including those at 95th and 91st Street, have seen a 100% reduction in blockages greater than 10” when comparing May 2021 to August 2021. In the month of August 2021, the following road-rail crossings on Chicago’s Southwest Side experienced reductions:
115th Street: 63% reduction in blockages
111th Street: 59% reduction in blockages
103rd Street: 18% reduction in blockages
99th Street: 64% reduction in blockages
95th Street: 100% reduction in blockages
91st Street: 100% reduction in blockages
87th Street: 41% reduction in blockages
“I am thankful to Congresswoman Newman for spearheading this effort to address this public safety and quality of life issue,” said Alderman Matt O’Shea, 19th Ward. “While I am encouraged by this initial progress, our community has seen periods of improvement in the past. Congresswoman Newman and I are committed to continuing to hold CSX’s feet to the fire.”
For years, freight trains on the Elsdon Subdivision line, which runs along Sacramento Avenue in the Beverly, Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood neighborhoods, have stopped in their tracks, regularly blocking traffic as well as fire trucks and ambulances responding to emergencies. In one of her first acts in office, Congresswoman Newman convened a working group with primarily Ald. O’Shea, The Chicago Transportation Coordination Office (CTCO), including CSX, and state and city officials to create new processes to effectively mitigate these regular delays.
Since the creation of the working group, local rail operators have altered internal and external communications processes to address congestion across the region. Specifically, operators Belt Railways and CSX have enacted a process change requiring manager approval for all northbound trains ensuring ‘line-up’ to proceed, greatly reducing slowdowns. At Congresswoman Newman’s request, the group created a new blockage reporting system that will alert the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) immediately when a grade crossing blockage is identified.
“OEMC will continue to work with the rail industry to ensure ongoing coordination, timely notifications, and effective communication on this topic,” said Rich Guidice, Executive Director of OEMC.”
The successful mitigation efforts announced today follow a letter by Congresswoman Newman, Ald. O’Shea and other local officials that was sent to CTCO earlier this summer to address the constant delays experienced by constituents.
Congresswoman Newman has made it a priority to address road-rail conflicts that have affected Southwest Side constituents for decades. Earlier this summer, she successfully secured nearly $20 million in federal funding to support the Archer Avenue and the Belt Railway of Chicago (BRC) Grade Separation Project, which has been another hotspot for rail delays in the area.
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