PLAINFIELD – Trains stopped at the Route 126 railroad crossing for long periods of time pose a danger for schoolchildren walking to Indian Trail Middle School, Plainfield Deputy Fire Chief Jon Stratton said.
“We get calls, and they’ll talk to the school, too, saying they’re crawling underneath and across the train. We’ve heard that they’ve crawled between the trains,” Stratton said. “But that’s dangerous. You never know when that train’s going to move.”
Stratton was among a handful of local village, public safety and school officials who met with U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, on Friday at Village Hall to voice their concerns to Hultgren about ongoing issues with stopped trains.
School buses have been delayed up to 45 minutes at least three times this year because trains were stopped on the tracks for extended periods of time, Plainfield School District 202 Associate Superintendent Lane Abrell said.
With the school district’s multi-tier bus schedule, one delayed bus can create additional delays for other bus routes.
“That’s lost time,” he said. “As much as our teachers try to make that up. … It does add up to a loss of educational opportunities.”
At the meeting, village trustees also expressed frustration at the increased blockages and associated traffic jams caused by the freight rails, which are owned by Canadian National Railway.
“We’re very unique that when a train goes through and stops, it ties up the entire town,” Village Trustee Margie Bonuchi said. “I live on the east side of Route 59 and to jockey around is quite difficult, and in some cases, quite dangerous.”
No clear cut solutions emerged during Friday’s meeting, but Hultgren said the discussion would be the first step of many in resolving the issue.
“This is very important. The worst thing possible is that we come back [to the issue] because of a tragedy. I want to do everything I can, and I know that’s what you’re trying to do, as well, to make sure we never get to that point,” he said.
Canadian National Railway bought the EJ&E railway in 2008, increasing traffic on rail lines that cross Plainfield roads at 13 different intersections. Since then, train delays of more than 10 minutes almost doubled every year in Plainfield, according to the railroad company’s own records – with 83 delays in 2014, compared to 43 in 2013 and 28 in 2012.
Hultgren said he plans to meet with the railway company officials and schedule a follow-up meeting with village officials about next steps.