Prepare for Two-Mile-Long Trains

EJ&E RR Crossing

Cars wait at the EJ&E tracks on Western Avenue this past winter. (Photo: ENEWSPF)

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Is Park Forest ready for trains that are two miles long? How about 32 of them a day?

According to a recent report in the Chicago Tribune, Canadian National will bring monster trains to the suburbs:

Freight trains on the EJ&E now average about 2,600 feet, about half a mile long. But a CN presentation to analysts in June talked about trains that would run up to 12,000 feet—well over 2 miles long.

Longer, faster freights are the industry’s watchwords, experts say. And CN says its plan to bypass Chicago’s rail gridlock will mean fewer blocked crossings in the city and many close-in communities.

The impact of behemoth trains in the Park Forest area would be significant, especially if CN follows through on its plans to increase rail traffic. CN conservatively estimates that the number of trains per day passing through Park Forest will increase by almost 400% from the current 8 average trains per day to more than 32. Noise is also a concern as a substantial increase in the number of trains will adversely impact the quality of life for those Park Foresters with homes in close proximity to the EJ&E railroad tracks.

The impact on school bus traffic in the mornings and afternoons would also be significant.

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The Federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) recently released a draft environmental impact statement regarding Canadian National’s proposed acquisition of the EJ&E railway company. The Village will begin reviewing the document to provide feedback to the STB. Residents interested in reviewing the draft EIS can visit the Park Forest Public Library or go on line to www.stb.dot.gov. As part of their efforts to solicit public comment for the draft EIS, the Surface Transportation Board will convene a number of public meetings in the coming weeks. Scheduled meetings for public comment that are in closest proximity to Park Forest include:

  • Monday, August 25, from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Matteson Holiday Inn
  • Wednesday, September 10, from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana
  • Thursday, September 11, from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Joliet

Residents are strongly encouraged to voice their opinions regarding this proposed acquisition. To date, the STB has received more than 5,000 correspondences from the public. On behalf of Park Foresters, the Village has been actively participating in this process by making known its concerns and the adverse impacts that the acquisition would have on our community.

The Village’s economic development efforts also are a concern as increased trains crossing Western Avenue may hinder the Village’s ability to develop and/or redevelop parcels of property along this major arterial road and in its business park as traffic might seek other routes due to repeated long waiting times for trains to pass across this thoroughfare. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, public safety is a major concern. With a proposed 32 (and likely more) trains per day crossing Western Avenue, one of the Village’s two direct routes used for emergency vehicle transports to hospitals into Chicago Heights and Olympia Fields will be severely compromised. Additionally, the huge increase in rail traffic will likely bring with it a commensurate increase in hazardous materials being transported through Park Forest along the railroad system.

All of the above noted concerns have been shared by Village Officials with CN representatives, the Surface Transportation Board, local and state legislators and the Illinois Department of Transportation.  Residents with questions about the CN/EJ&E matter are encouraged to contact the Village Manager’s Office at 748-1129.