PLAINFIELD – Village Trustee Margie Bonuchi is one of many residents who have been stuck behind traffic jams caused by a train stopped at a railroad crossing.
Last Saturday, she took a detour of several extra miles from Interstate 55 to Weber Road to get back home.
“It shouldn’t be that bad,” Bonuchi said. “When these trains start blocking everything, it hurts our community.”
Bonuchi is one of four trustees who during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting at village hall advocated for a safer railway system that doesn’t stop road traffic and hinder the response times of emergency vehicles.
“The trains aren’t going away,” Bonuchi said, adding that she and Trustee Dan Rippy are working with the office of U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, to figure out how to prevent the delays from increasing. “We need to get a compromise with [Canadian National] for safety’s sake.”
Bonuchi said the village will be compiling a list of concerns residents have with the railway system.
Trustees Paul Fey, Bill Lamb and Rippy also expressed frustration at increased blockages caused by the freight rails, which are owned by Canadian National Railway.
The railroad company’s own records show that traffic delays caused by trains have been doubling each year.
CN bought the EJ&E railway in 2008 after the federal Surface Transportation Board approved the proposal, increasing traffic on rail lines that cross Plainfield roads at 13 different intersections.
Plainfield trustees and former Mayor James Waldorf opposed the proposal at the time, citing concerns with more traffic on main and arterial roads and safety of children travelling to nearby schools. But after talking with village officials, the transportation board decided to approve the purchase.
“I was part of that process when CN was being approved,” Fay said. “I think we need to revisit that because it seems to be worsening.”
According to information submitted to the Surface Transportation Board by CN, train delays of more than 10 minutes in January almost doubled every year in Plainfield. January 2010 saw one delay, January 2011 had 19 delays, 2012 had 28 delays, 2013 had 43 delays and 2014 had 83 delays.
Police Chief John Konopek said his department is gathering additional data by tracking the amount of time trains stop per day.
“It seems like it’s happening every day,” Konopek said. “The way our town is laid out, the train tracks cross many areas.”
Konopek said the CN police have been very good to work with in the past. But recently there isn’t much of a working relationship.
CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said that the rail company constantly works with village officials to address train stoppage.
“We’re always working to fix and prevent delays,” Waldron said. “Since 2009 we’ve had an agreement with the village. We’ve communicated with the village and continue to talk about what we can do to prevent delays.”