ELWOOD – Village officials want to reduce truck traffic at a railroad crossing where the gates were crashed 47 times last year.
Elwood officials are reaching out to the Illinois Commerce Commission in hopes of reducing heavy truck traffic and improving warning systems at the Walter Strawn Road and Illinois 53 railroad crossing, citing an increase in broken gates and one too many close calls.
Last year, for example, a semitrailer that was stuck on the crossing because of backed-up traffic, was nearly hit by an oncoming Amtrak train,
according to a news release issued by the village on Wednesday.
Ongoing issues at the intersection has led the ICC, which governs the state’s railway system, to reopen a 2001 case brought forward by Elwood.
Case documents show that heavy truck traffic, coupled with the crossing’s close proximity to the main access point to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, has made the crossing a threat to public safety.
The national cemetery averages 25 funerals per day, with peak uses on Mondays and Fridays when the cemetery can have up to 37 processions per day.
In 2013, 47 gates – the most anywhere in the state – were destroyed by trucks that ran through them, according to data provided by Union Pacific. In some cases, trucks were stuck on the tracks because of backed-up traffic because of funeral processions and drove through the gates to avoid trains.
An administrative law judge assigned by the ICC this week scheduled a hearing for March 18 in Chicago so representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation, Union Pacific and Elwood can look at immediate and long-term solutions, said Beth Bosch, spokeswoman for the commission.
Truck traffic volume over the crossing has significantly exceeded initial projections following the development of the Deer Run Intermodal Park and Union Pacific Joliet Intermodal Yard. For example, officials had estimated about 7,000 vehicles would go over the tracks per day by the year 2020, but a 2013 traffic count by Elwood shows that about 12,000 vehicles travel over the crossing each day, including 8,000 semi-truck tractor trailers.