Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton was shocked when he witnessed a cyclist get off his bike and crawl under a delayed freight train rather than continue to wait for the train to pass a crossing in the village.
It was an extremely dangerous thing to do, but the move emphasized for Sexton the frustration people are dealing with when it comes to stalled trains and downed crossing gates at various spots in the village.
“People who get frustrated do crazy things,” Sexton said.
Sexton said the delays force ambulances headed for Christ Medical Center—the region’s only trauma center—and Little Company of Mary Hospital from reaching their destinations in a timely fashion. Rerouting wastes precious moments that could be the difference between life and death, he said.
“Somebody is going to get hurt or die waiting for an ambulance,” Sexton said.
The railroad line, which CSX took over in 2012, dissects the village and crosses 95th Street near Troy Avenue and Kedzie Avenue at 94th Street—immediately adjacent to the police and fire departments.
Stalled trains and downed gates occur numerous times a week, and the delays have exceeded one hour in some cases, Sexton said.
“It’s a mess,” said Sexton, who added that the village has received hundreds of calls from complaining residents. The trouble is, there’s little the village can do, as the federal government oversees the railroads.
Sexton last week attended a 90-minute meeting with CSX officials to discuss a solution to the problem. State Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Bobby Rush and 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea also attended the meeting.
Railroad officials made a commitment to put an end to the delays, Sexton said, but the mayor is tiring of promises the railroad doesn’t keep, he said.
“They’re going to make everything better,” Sexton said with a trace of sarcasm. “I’ll feel better when it gets fixed.”
Sexton said no improvements were made following a previous meeting with CSX officials at O’Shea’s office.
“It’s only gotten worse,” he said. “It’s just off the charts. I can understand why there’s so much road rage.”
CSX officials told Sexton that recent extreme weather as well as repairs being made along the line are to blame for the delays.
The train line runs through Chicago’s Mt. Greenwood community before entering Evergreen Park where it crosses several major streets in the village, including 99th Street, 95th Street, Kedzie Avenue and 87th Street.
In addition to safety concerns, Sexton said the delays and resulting snarled traffic have a negative impact on the village’s business community.
CSX is currently repairing and replacing signals and replacing tens of thousands of railroad ties, and has ordered slow zones through the area while the work is in progress. The work will be ongoing into 2014, CSX officials have said.
The railroad purchased the line from the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, and the company’s plan to run more than 20 trains a day through town was not well-received by village officials in 2012 when railroad officials spoke at a village board meeting.
CSX’s acquisition of the rail line will allow the company’s freight trains to be expedited more quickly in Chicago, railroad officials said. Trains do not run through Evergreen Park between 5 and 9 a.m. or from 4 and 7:30 p.m., CSX officials said.