GLENVIEW/NORTHBROOK — Glenview residents organizing to prevent a freight train holding track stretching two miles through the village and Northbrook now have a strong ally.
The Glenview Village Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution during a regularly scheduled meeting October 18 at Village Hall opposing the holding track. Trustees said the proposal from federal and state authorities is not well thought out.
The issue came to a head after two years of study arising from a request by Amtrak to add three round trips between Chicago and Milwaukee to the seven it already runs, according to a presentation by Jeff Brady, Glenview’s director of planning. Glenview is the only Amtrak stop between Chicago and the Wisconsin state line.
After Amtrak made its proposal, it triggered an environmental assessment by the Federal Railroad Administration, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, according to a memorandum Brady prepared for the board.
Brady said Amtrak shares the tracks it uses with Metra and the Canadian Pacific freight lines. Further west near Shermer Road, the Union Pacific Railroad operates a freight service on a separate set of tracks. Both the Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific pass through Northbrook and Glenview on their way to freight yards in Bensenville.
As the railroads huddled with the FRA, IDOT and WisDOT, there was discussion the addition of the three additional Amtrak trains was a tipping point causing more congestion among all the rail lines than the existing infrastructure can handle.
FRA Proposes Two-Mile Holding Track
The solution proposed by the FRA’s assessment is either a 10,000-foot holding track to the east of the existing rails between West Lake Avenue in Glenview and Techny Road in Northbrook or an 11,000-foot stretch of rails on the west side. Neither is acceptable to Glenview, according to Trustee Scott Britton.
“There’s nobody on this board who is extremely excited about this concept,” Britton said. “You can’t just do it here. We cannot control or prohibit this from happening. This has to be a much broader attempt.”
Britton suggested the village officially approach the area’s current representatives in Congress as well as candidates for those offices and lobby them. Village Manager Todd Hileman said the environmental assessment did not show a need for the three additional trains or the impact on the community.
“The cost benefit analysis just has not been proven,” Hileman said. “There’s clearly not a need that’s being shown. I think the Amtrak Hiawatha line is operating at about a third of its capacity. That’s something we’re seizing on and saying you haven’t built a case at this point.”
Trustee Deborah Karton said the detriments of living by a railroad line is something homebuyers in the area understood when they purchased their house. She said they would never have anticipated the proposed plan.
“They’re talking about building a new track so when people bought their home they never would have expected that,” said Karton. “To have a new track with new times of usage or idling, that’s out of the realm of what you would expect.”
Detlefs Accuses Railroads of Taking Advantage
Trustee Paul Detlefs wants to know if the Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific are using Amtrak’s proposal to take advantage of the situation and profit off the residents of Glenview and Northbrook.
“Are the freight companies using this to solve a problem they’ve been dealing with a long time,” said Detlefs. “This is a solution in search of an old problem that’s already existed. I’m totally in support of fighting this in any way we can.”
Along with the resolution, the trustees expressed a hope residents will put their concerns in writing to the FRA, IDOT and WisDOT before the public comment period of the federal rulemaking process ends November 15.
The FRA, IDOT and WisDOT will hold a public meeting to explain the proposals from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 5 to 8 p.m. November 2 in the Lakeview Room of the Glenview Park District’s Park Center at 2400 Chestnut Avenue. People can express their concerns then as well, according to Deputy Village Manager Don Owen. They can also gather information to buttress their written comments.
Before that open house, Owen said there will be a meeting at 7 p.m. October 26 in the same Lakeview Room location to help interested parties prepare for the official public meeting a week later.