STB: No Mitigation for Western Ave if CN Acquires EJ&E

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– The Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA) of the Surface Transportation Board announced the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) regarding the proposed acquisition of the EJ&E Railroad by Canadian National Railway and Grand Trunk Corporation. The Final EIS advises no mitigation for the Park Forest crossing at Western Avenue, claiming that the revised information available to the SEA indicates that trains will move at "a higher speed."

The report also concludes, in part, that no mediation is necessary since the crossing at Park Forest already experiences delays. In essence, residents of Park Forest and other areas are accustomed to delays, so they already know how to live with them.

From the report:

SEA also made appropriate adjustments to the train operations data for this Final EIS. Train operations data were adjusted for three primary reasons:

  • First, as discussed in Section 2.1, above, the Applicants revised the proposed new connection at Matteson, Illinois to reduce the effect that the connection would have on the EJ&E rail line track speeds.
  • Second, as discussed in Section 2.2, above, the Applicants propose to modify the existing connection at Leithton (near Mundelein, Illinois) to allow trains to move at a higher speed through the connection. The changes at Matteson and Leithton would increase train speeds at nearby highway/rail at-grade crossings, thereby reducing some potential environmental effects.
  • Finally, as discussed in Section 2.14, below, the Applicants corrected the train numbers at several highway/rail at-grade crossings near locations where rail traffic moves on or off the EJ&E rail line.

Western Avenue was judged to be one of the "Substantially Affected Crossings," according to the report. Specifically, the report says:

Western Avenue, Park Forest, Illinois

Western Avenue is a five-lane arterial running north/south. Currently, the vehicle queue length of 528 feet holds southbound traffic past South Street, a minor road, and also blocks access to several business’ driveways. Under the Proposed Action, the queue length would increase to 863 feet and total vehicle delay would exceed the threshold. Under the Proposed Action, southbound traffic would continue to be queued past South Street to North Street, and would block access to South Street and adjacent businesses. Commuters in Park Forest would be able to use North Street and Westwood Drive to access Orchard Drive as an alternative route. Western Avenue would be a substantially affected crossing because forecasted delay would be 2,727 minutes, thus exceeding the 40 vehicle hours (2,400 minutes) per day in 2015.

However, Western Avenue was not recommended for mitigation by the SEA. Of the substantially affected crossings, only the following were recommended for mitigation, and mitigation may be different for each crossing:

  • Old McHenry Road, Lake Zurich, Illinois
  • Main Street, Lake Zurich, Illinois
  • Hough Street (IL 59), Barrington, Illinois
  • Ogden Avenue (US 34), Aurora, Illinois
  • Plainfield – Naperville Road, Plainfield, Illinois
  • Woodruff Road, Joliet, Illinois
  • Washington Street, Joliet, Illinois
  • Lincoln Highway (US 30), Lynwood, Illinois

The report mentions Western Avenue again in Chapter 4, again asserting that "increased train speeds" will mean less wait time in Park Forest:

Revised Connections

As discussed in Section 2.5.3, the Applicants revised some of their original proposed connections along the EJ&E rail line. The Applicants revised the double track connection at Leithton (near Mundelein, Illinois) and the connection at Matteson, Illinois (as described in the Applicants’ letters dated September 17, 2008, and August 21, 2008, respectively (Applicant 2008e, Applicant 2008f). The Applicants proposed the revised connections in order to improve train operation speeds, therefore reducing Proposed Action-related delay at the highway/rail at-grade crossings on the EJ&E rail line and CN’s Waukesha Subdivision. The modified connection at Leithton would allow for increased train speeds through the highway/rail at-grade crossings of Allanson Road, IL 60/83 and Diamond Lake Road, near Mundelein, while the modified connection at Matteson, Illinois, would allow increased train speeds through the highway/rail at-grade crossings of Cicero Avenue, Western Avenue, and Main Street. Because of these revisions, SEA is not proposing mitigation for these grade crossings that otherwise would have been affected. SEA is, however recommending that the Applicants be required to go forward with their revised connections at these two locations.

Village officials will be studying the Final EIS.

The entire Final Environmental Impact Statement is available here.