Mundelein seeks to ease train congestion
Updated: February 21, 2013 8:21AM
MUNDELEIN — Mundelein officials this week approved a $350,000 study to determine whether an overpass or underpass could be built at Route 60/83 and the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern railroad tracks.
Although this intersection is unincorporated Mundelein, residents and emergency responders are still affected by lengthy train crossings, Village Administrator John Lobaito said.
In addition to waiting at the gate, Lobaito said Mundelein residents often deal with frustrated drivers speeding through nearby neighborhoods while trying to turn around.
Currently, the Illinois Department of Transportation is finishing studies to widen a strip of Route 60/83 to five lanes, and the study to separate the railroad intersection would be incorporated into this.
The widening is planned because heavy traffic flows east on Route 176, heads south on the two-lane Route 60/83, and gets jammed until Route 60 becomes the five-lane Townline Road.
“Widening Route 60/83 will help traffic move easier, but a long train still stops traffic regardless of how many lanes you have,” Lobaito said. “This (new study) gets our idea put into the mix even though somebody originally didn’t think a grade separation was necessary.”
The $350,000 will not come from village coffers. Instead, it will come from $500,000 that CN railway gave to Mundelein in 2009. The money was given when the company purchased the EJ&E tracks so freight trains heading to Indiana would avoid Chicago – thus affecting the suburbs by boosting daily train travel from two to nearly 20 trains per day. Lobaito said the $500,000 was meant to help the village overcome this new challenge.
Already, however, IDOT estimates range between $40 and $60 million to construct an underpass or overpass, Lobaito said. But actual expenses, he added, would be less because IDOT would already be breaking ground and rearranging utility lines as part of the road-widening project.
“The state and federal government usually team up to pay for big projects like this,” Lobaito said. “If the grade separation study brings positive information, construction and funding would be part of the overall project.”
Priorities also become a factor. Lobaito said IDOT could agree with the need for an underpass but still eliminate the idea to make room for other components they deem more essential, such as higher curbs or a median.
Village Trustee Ed Sullivan opposed the $350,000 study. He said any road widening would take 20 years or more and results from a study would be obsolete by the time construction started.
Sullivan ultimately voted for the study, but said he fears the cost of an underpass is closer to $90 million and IDOT would automatically eliminate it due to the price.
A July 25 letter from IDOT to Lobaito said the phase-one studies and surveys should be complete this summer. The letter said next step, which includes engineering schematics of approved components, would then take between 18 and 24 months with no estimate on construction timelines.
Lobaito admits those projections are optimistic and unlikely, but said major roadway improvements always take a long time.