Metra and Union Pacific Railroad joined state, county and local officials and members of the community in Maywood today to break ground on a $100 million project to remove two critical bottlenecks along the UP West Line that can be the source of delays for both freight and commuter trains.
“We’re extremely happy to be able to launch this project with our partners at Union Pacific,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “Adding these track segments will reduce the potential for delays and improve the travel experience for the 30,000 Metra riders who rely on this line each weekday. Residents along the UP West Line will also benefit from shorter wait times at crossings and fewer freight trains idling on the tracks.”
“In addition to serving tens of thousands of passengers each day on the West Line, Union Pacific also uses this route for cross-country freight trains carrying the goods Americans use daily,” said Union Pacific Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz. “When completed, the third main line will provide more efficient operations for both freight and commuter customers, as well as reduce crossing wait times for local drivers.”
The project will add nearly eight miles of third track in the only two remaining segments between Elburn and Chicago that have two tracks. Today’s ceremony in Maywood marked the start of construction on the first segment, a 1.8-mile section from just east of the Des Plaines River in River Forest to 25th Avenue in Melrose Park. Third track will also be added starting later this year along a 6.1-mile segment from Kress Road in West Chicago to Peck Road in Geneva.
“We are excited that Metra and the Union Pacific are making this investment in the county,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “The economic, environmental and transportation benefits from this project are clear and I congratulate all involved for their forward-thinking approach.”
“This project is a great example of what we can accomplish when we work together on transportation solutions that improve our communities and grow our economy,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “This project will enhance safety and quality of life for Illinois residents, while solidifying our status as the transportation hub of North America.”
The project is the fourth phase of the UP West Line Improvement Project, a multi-year effort to improve the flow of rail traffic on the line while enhancing pedestrian and motorist safety. The first phase focused on safety enhancements at Metra stations, including the installation of a new “Another Train Warning System” that uses a combination of audio and visual alerts to warn pedestrians at crossings adjacent to stations that another train is approaching or present. The system was the first of its kind in the United States to be fully implemented along a rail line.
“Enhanced transportation options like these are worth celebrating, because they are the keys to a healthy economy,” said Lois Baumann, executive director of the Maywood Fine Arts Association. “They will certainly help us grow our studio and reach more students to prepare them for new opportunities and a better future.”
Other improvements included installing new pedestrian gates at crossings, eliminating mid-platform crossings and constructing pathways to divert pedestrian traffic to safer crossing points at the end of platforms. Phases two and three included enhancements to the signal system that enabled trains to safely operate closer together and added crossovers at Wheaton and Lombard to improve the flow of traffic by allowing trains to switch tracks to avoid congestion points.
While there are no current plans to increase commuter service on the UP West Line, upgrading the entire line to three-track service will alleviate current congestion and freight and commuter train conflicts, which will improve service for both Metra commuters and UP’s freight customers. The UP West Line, one of the nation’s busiest rail lines, is used by 60 Metra trains and more than 50 freight trains each weekday.
Construction of the 1.8-mile segment is expected to take a year. Work on the 6.1-mile segment is scheduled to begin later this year and continue through 2019. Project funding is being provided by Union Pacific and Metra.