Plans under review to increase Amtrak’s Hiawatha service from seven to 10 round trips daily between Chicago and Milwaukee would impact the Village of Glenview at multiple locations.
Village officials have a number of concerns about the proposals, which are currently going through the environmental and needs assessments process by the Federal Railroad Administration, Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), and other agencies.
Adding the three additional daily train runs would impact not only the tracks Amtrak shares with Metra east of Harlem Road/Lehigh Avenue, but also the Union Pacific tracks through west Glenview that cross West Lake Avenue, Shermer Road and Willow Road.
The proposed changes would impact Glenview by blocking traffic six additional times in the afternoon and evening that's trying to cross Metra’s Milwaukee District North tracks, which may increase traffic back-ups and noise on Glenview Road and Dewes Street.
Specific neighborhood concerns include (see map):
- A new switch and universal crossover would be installed for Metra’s Milwaukee District North tracks south of Dewes Street. Trains switching tracks could be noisy and disturb the predominantly residential area.
- To accommodate the additional Amtrak trains on the Metra tracks and alleviate existing service delays, freight trains would be held on the Union Pacific tracks in west Glenview. That would require that an additional holding track be constructed adjacent to the existing tracks from about West Lake Avenue to past Willow Road. The new holding track would allow a freight train to be parked until it is assured clear passage on the Union Pacific tracks to the Canadian Pacific’s Bensenville freight yard. The new single track would be supported by a 10-foot- to 20-foot-tall retaining wall, require modifications to the West Lake Avenue at-grade crossing, and require a new bridge be built next to the recently-constructed replacement Shermer Road railroad viaduct.
Representatives of the railroads have been discussing the improvements desired to accommodate the increase to 10 round trips daily of Amtrak’s Hiawatha service since 2012. The Village of Glenview was informed in February 2015 of the location and specific infrastructure improvements, and immediately expressed concern.
A draft Chicago-Milwaukee Environmental Assessment was released October 6, 2016 indicating that no significant environmental impacts are anticipated to occur as a result of the proposed expansion plans.
The regulatory agencies held a public involvement meeting in Glenview on Wednesday, November 2, 2016, at Park Center, 2400 Chestnut Avenue, to receive comments.
Comments were accepted until January 15, 2017. Comments can still be sent to federal and state elected officials.
According to the agencies' original timetable, the Federal Railroad Administration was expected render its decision in early 2017, but the process has been extended due to requests for additional analyses (see updates below). If a "Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)" is the result, the agencies could then pursue federal funds to implement the project.
The Village will continue to monitor the progress of the proposals and provide information on this web page. If you would like to be emailed updates when the Village receives them, please submit your email to: RRinformation@glenview.il.us
October 13, 2017 -- U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) and Brad Schneider (D-10th) released a joint letter to Randall Blankenhorn, secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, and Dave Ross, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. They requested the departments conduct a freight impact study in order to fully examine the impact of any potential plan to increase Amtrak's service on the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha line.
October 11, 2017 -- The Villages of Glenview, Deerfield, Bannockburn and Northbrook and the City of Lake Forest hosted a symposium about “The Future of Rail Freight Traffic.” This was an informational session about current freight issues, cargo transport and safety, and what the Chicago area can expect in the future. No updates on the Hiawatha project were presented.
August 8, 2017 -- It appears that additional analyses being pursued by the Wisconsin and Illinois Departments of Transportation will extend the date for submittal of the Environmental Assessment to the Federal Railroad Administration until at least early 2018. In response to a query from the City of Lake Forest about what additional analyses are being done, a spokesman for the Wisconsin DOT responded:
"Additional analyses will be completed to evaluate requests for changes in infrastructure improvement scopes and to provide more quantitative data regarding noise and vibration impacts.
Metra, Chicago's commuter railroad, requested that the project consider a revised scope of the Rondout Third Main Track project, which would extend the proposed third track south of Illinois Route 60 in Lake Forest, IL. In order to fulfill this request, a capacity analysis will be completed to determine the impact of extending the third track and the resulting impact of the project on environmental resources will be evaluated.
The noise and vibration analysis is being updated using more detailed information on proposed Amtrak Hiawatha Service operations and potential changes to freight and Metra operations as a result of implementing the Program. The project team obtained current freight volumes and operating patterns, which will allow for a more accurate identification of noise and vibration levels and locations where noise and vibration exist. Next, the change in level and location of noise and vibration due to the increase in Hiawatha Service and potential changes to freight and Metra operations can be identified. In addition, a noise wall analysis will be conducted to determine if there are locations where these walls could be added to mitigate potential increases in noise and vibration."
April 20, 2017 -- In a response to letters from Glenview and Northbrook (below), the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Illinois Department of Transportation wrote back that it was "undertaking additional analyses to further quantify the potential impacts resulting from the increase in Hiawatha Service," which could include "further evaluation of infrastructure investment projects, construction impacts, and impacts to noise and vibration, air quality, socioeconomics, grade crossings, and threatened and endangered species."
The letter said: "Once the additional analyses are complete, (IDOT) will hold an agency coordination webinar and meetings with municipal leaders from Glenview and Northbrook to present the results."
March 31, 2017 -- Following a meeting earlier in the month with representatives of the Governor's Office and the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Village Presidents of Glenview and Northbrook submitted letters to IDOT requesting a freight impact study be done to evaluate the potential impacts of additional freight traffic on the proposed holding tracks outlined in the project.
This video was shown during the meeting. It shows the current impacts of the freight trains on the neighborhood, which will only get worse with the proposed holding track.
January 25, 2017 -- Among the comments submitted to the Federal Rail Administration and the Illinois and Wisconsin departments of transportation was this call from Northbrook-Glenview School District 30 for a full Environmental Impact Statement:
January 15, 2017 -- The Village of Glenview has sent a letter to the Federal Rail Administration and the Illinois and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation reiterating opposition to the current project planning and the need for further studies and an Environmental Impact Statement.
January 12, 2017 -- Watch this report on WGN-Channel 9, "Amtrak seeks expansion but residents in north suburbs pushing back"
January 12, 2017 -- Newly-seated Congressman Brad Schneider (D-10th) sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration calling for a full Environmental Impact Statement on the the potential consequences of the proposed Amtrak Hiawatha expansion project.
December 22, 2016 -- Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-9th), State Senator Daniel Biss (D-9th), and State Representatives Laura Fine (D-17th) and Robyn Gable (D-8th) sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration calling for a full Environmental Impact Study on the potential consequences of the proposed Amtrak Hiawatha expansion project. That proposed project would allow for construction of a 10,000-foot freight train holding track in and near Glenview and Northbrook.
November 18, 2016 -- The Village was informed that the comment period for the Chicago-Milwaukee Draft Environmental Assessment has been extended by 60 days. Comments will now be accepted until January 15, 2017. The draft EA, other project documents, and instructions on providing comments can be found here. It is likely additional information will be posted on that website before the end of the year.
November 16, 2016 -- The comment period on the draft Environmental Assessment for design alternatives proposed in the Chicago-Milwaukee Intercity Passenger Rail Corridor is now closed.
The Village of Glenview sent this letter and notice of objection to the Illinois and Wisconsin departments of transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration: Read it here
The Village of Deerfield sent a letter expressing concerns: Read it here
Here are the resolutions passed and sent by other municipalities expressing concern:
November 2, 2016 -- Several hundred people attended a public involvement
meeting hosted by the Illinois and Wisconsin departments of transportation at Park Center. While a 15-minute video was played in one part of the room, posters depicting the project proposals were displayed in the other. Comments were requested to be submitted on paper into comment boxes.
October 26, 2016 -- Village staff presented information and answered questions at a community meeting about the Amtrak Hiawatha expansion plans, the comment procedure and the upcoming public involvement meeting on November 2, 2016.
October 18, 2016 -- The Village Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution in opposition to expansion plans being considered for the Chicago-Milwaukee Intercity Passenger Rail Corridor.
The Board has three main concerns:
The Environmental Assessment recommendations are driven by Amtrak's desire to expand Hiawatha service; however, ridership data does not support the expansion.
The new A-20 holding track is proposed directly adjacent to existing residential areas, and the Environmental Assessment does not consider air quality, noise, vibration, health, and other environmental impacts.
The Environmental Assessment does not address fiscally responsible big-picture approaches, and ignores long-term solutions for debilitating rail congestion on this line.
October 14, 2016 -- The Village has scheduled a community meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at Park Center, 2400 Chestnut Avenue, in the Lakeview Room, where residents can learn more about the proposal. This precedes the November 2 public involvement meeting in Glenview set by the Illinois and Wisconsin departments of transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration.
October 6, 2016 -- The Environmental Assessment is available for public review and comment. The official comment period is from October 6 to November 15, 2016. The document indicates that no significant environmental impacts are anticipated to occur as a result of the Chicago-Milwaukee Amtrak Study.
September 23, 2016 -- The Village of Glenview was informed that the Illinois Department of Transportation and Wisconsin Department of Transportation intend to release an Environmental Assessment on or about September 27. Check this website for the report posting.
Once the assessment is released, IDOT and WisDOT will set a public comment period, which will include a public meeting. The Village has been informed that a public involvement meeting on the Environmental Assessment has been scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 2, at Park Center, 2400 Chestnut Avenue, in the Lakeview Room.
The Environmental Assessment is the next step in the process, which will result in a finding by the transportation departments regarding significant impact. If a "Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)" is the result, the agencies could then pursue federal funds to implement the project.
April 3, 2015 -- The Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Planning Study team has provided additional information, as indicated in a meeting with Village staff on March 19, 2015. In the letter (linked below), the study team explained that it has decided to identify and evaluate alternatives to the proposed improvements and include them in the review process. Staff will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.
March 20, 2015 -- Village staff met this week with Illinois Department of Transportation and Wisconsin Department of Transportation representatives, as well as their consultant, Quandel, to review the answers to questions posed by Glenview residents and Village of Glenview staff about the proposed modifications by IDOT, WisDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration associated with Amtrak's Hiawatha service between Chicago and Milwaukee. While the answers (see below link) provide additional information on the proposal, IDOT and WisDOT noted it would be another two to three weeks before they would be able to respond to the concerns relayed about the additional track proposed along the Union Pacific line, which would hold freight train traffic until it is cleared to progress further south along the tracks. Staff will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.
- Illinois Department of Transportation
Elliot A. Ramos, PE
Passenger Rail Engineer
- Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Passenger Rail Implementation Manager
- Federal Railroad Administration
Environmental Protection Specialist
History of Shermer Road/Union Pacific Railroad overpass replacement
Separate from the current improvements under study as described above, a two-year cooperative effort by Union Pacific Railroad, the villages of Glenview and Northbrook, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Commerce Commission, and the Federal Railroad Administration resulted in an improved 149-foot-long bridge, with a 57-foot clear span over Shermer Road. On July 3, 2014, traffic was able to again traverse Shermer Road between Willow Road and West Lake Avenue, with the reopening of the roadway underneath the new railroad viaduct.
The roadway had been blocked following the July 4, 2012 derailment of a Union Pacific freight train and resulting collapse of the viaduct.
This webpage charts the history of the accident and replacement of the viaduct.