Glenview is Spending More Than Half a Million to Oppose Amtrak’s Hiawatha Expansion

An Amtrak train pulls into Glenview Station. Photo: Jeff Zoline
An Amtrak train pulls into Glenview Station. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Whether you call it a sensible precaution, or merely throwing bad money after good, the north-suburban village of Glenview just approved spending an additional $105,000 to fight Amtrak’s current plan to add additional runs on its Hiawatha line between Chicago and Milwaukee. That will bring the total that Glenview is spending on its opposition to more than $505,000 – quite a chunk of change. On January 15 the Glenview Board of Trustees approved the latest expenditure, allocated from the suburb’s 2019 budget, according to a Chicago Tribune report by Alexandra Kukulka.

The Federal Railroad Administration and the Illinois and Wisconsin transportation departments have proposed increasing the service on the Hiawatha line, which stops in Glenview, from the current seven roundtrips a day to ten to relieve crowding. You’d think that the village would be thrilled to improve its transportation access, but officials and residents say they’re worried about several aspects of the plan.

The service-increase proposal calls for constructing an 11,000-foot freight train holding track to the east of the two Metra Milwaukee District-North tracks between Glenview and Northbrook, or else a 10,000-foot holding track to the west. (The Amtrak and Metra trains share the Glenview station.) Doing so would require building a 10-foot to 20-foot retaining wall to hold in the rail bed, and locals are opposed to eliminating green space between the tracks and residential districts, Kukulka reported.

The stretch of tracks between Glenview and Northbrook. Image: Google Maps
The stretch of tracks between Glenview and Northbrook. Image: Google Maps

Another concern is the need to construct two new single-track bridges. One of them would cross Shermer Road, which worries residents in light of a tragic incident in 2012 when a coal train fell derailed on a Shermer Road bridge, causing the bridge to collapse, killing motorists Burton Lindner, 69, and Zorine Lindner, 70. Officials and residents are worried that a new universal crossover switch on Metra tracks south of Dewes Street would raise risk of derailments and create more noise.

They also question whether adding more Hiawatha runs would do much to relieve rush-hour crowding, since the new runs would be scheduled during off-peak times. Of course, not all current rush-hour trips necessarily need to taken at those times, so having more runs could help remove some current riders from the overcrowded trains. Offering a wider range of travel times could also encourage more people to choose Amtrak instead to driving between the Windy City and Brew Town.

IDOT has said that it won’t allow the expansion project to move forward until all community concerns have been adequately considered.

Last May the Glenview board approved spending $400,000 to oppose the project “due to both the need being unwarranted and the absence of data on its full environmental impact,” the Tribune reported. That money was earmarked for communications, lobbying, research, and possible legal action. The next $105,000 will be used to continue paying communications, engineering, and lobbying firms.

Chicago-based urban planner and real estate analyst Kyle Terry expressed disgust for Glenview’s latest move on Twitter.

At the end of January, Glenview officials and railroad staff will meet to analyze alternatives to the holding track plan.

What do you think – is Glenview right to be wary of the Hiawatha proposal and spend half a million to put the brakes on the project, or is the village guilty of inexcusable Not in My Back Yard-style behavior? Share your perspective in the comments.

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