New rail track in Lake Forest not necessary, Metra announces, Lake Forester

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Lake Forest officials said they were thrilled to get news recently that Metra has said the proposed construction of a three-mile-long holding track into the city is not necessary at the moment. The commuter rail agency’s support for a shorter holding track, though, as well as additional Amtrak service in Glenview, remains a source of concern for that community.

 

[Below is a compressed summary of the full Chicago Tribune article here]

The commuter rail agency’s support for a shorter holding track, though, as well as additional Amtrak service in Glenview, remains a source of concern for that community.

In a May 18 letter regarding the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Corridor sent to representatives of both the Illinois and Wisconsin departments of transportation, Metra’s CEO James Derwinski said he now believes the addition of the third track through Lake Forest would not be needed for current operations.

Instead, Metra, which owns the tracks, now believes its goals of enhancing Amtrak service can be achieved without the proposed holding track going into Lake Forest. It’s possible, instead, the letter said, to simply rebuild a portion of the existing third track south of Rondout.

Since Metra is focused on investments in our existing system to work towards a state of good repair, we are not currently in a position to actively pursue major capacity expansions of Metra infrastructure beyond the short-term needs of the (Milwaukee District North) Line
— Metra CEO James Derwinski

“Therefore, Metra requests that proposed third main track from Rondout to Lake Forest be reduced to a third main track through the Rondout interlocking limits to a point approximately 2,500 feet geographically south of the (Canadian National)/(Elgin Joliet & Eastern) crossing,” the letter went on to say. “This is the first breakthrough over the course of a year and a half in our efforts, and we remain cautiously optimistic but vigilant in monitoring the progress of this project.”

The next step in the process is the anticipated release of an environmental assessment on the project from IDOT, WISDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration.

It is important to note there are many stakeholders and that until the final (environmental assessment) is released, we won’t feel confident Lake Forest won’t be getting a freight train holding track through our Middlefork Savannah
— Lake Forest Citizens for Action Group President JoAnn Desmond

Lake Forest city spokeswoman Susan Banks said she did not know when the assessment would be released but anticipated the matter would be discussed at the June 4 Lake Forest City Council meeting.

While Derwinski’s letter called for a shorter track near Lake Forest, the village of Glenview did not view the Metra statement in as favorable a light, however, since Metra’s plan still calls for several changes including a separate two-mile-long holding track in the western part of the village to allow for additional daily Amtrak runs.

“Among other concerns, it’s not clear why the Amtrak service expansion is necessary, given current ridership on the Hiawatha line is only at 39 percent of capacity.

Read the full story here

Gary Ricke