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Blocked Train Crossings Creating Traffic Headaches in Plainfield

Blocked crossings can mean hassles for drivers — and even bigger problems in the event of an emergency.

A CN train blocks a Plainfield crossing on Saturday, Feb. 15. Credit: Paul Fay
A CN train blocks a Plainfield crossing on Saturday, Feb. 15. Credit: Paul Fay
If you drive through Plainfield with any frequency, you're probably used to having to stop and wait for trains to pass.

But what happens when a train simply stops on the tracks? That's a situation that's happening more and more frequently, according to officials.

On Saturday, village trustee Paul Fay alerted Patch to a train stopped for more than 30 minutes, splitting the village in half.

According to Fay, Eastern Avenue, Route 126 and Naperville Road were blocked — making it impossible to get from one side of Plainfield to the other for passenger vehicles and, even more troubling, emergency responders.

"It stopped dead on the tracks," Fay said. "If one of our residents has an emergency and calls paramedics, they're not going to get there. It's unacceptable."

The long delay was also a hazard for Fay, who is diabetic.

"My blood sugar was actually dropping and I had nothing to eat in the car," Fay said.

Fay said he called CN police twice to ask about the issue. The first time, an officer told him he couldn't occupy the emergency lines with Fay's call, the trustee said. The second time, an officer chalked the problem up to mechanical issues.

Plainfield Police Chief and PEMA Director John Konopek said CN officials are telling the village that mechanical glitches are behind the recent delays.

"With the way this winter has been, we have seen an increase in the number of times the trains are stopping on the track," Konopek said. According to CN, he said, the problem is a sensor that is incorrectly indicating a problem on the track.

"By law, they have to stop and check," Konopek said. Due to the increasingly frequent stops, Konopek said he plans to request a meeting with CN to discuss what can be done.

"There's got to be a better way" to reduce the number of incidents, Konopek said. "My concern is if they're getting that many indications of a problem when there isn't," there may be a problem with the sensor, he said.

On Monday, a Plainfield Patch Facebook fan said she got stuck at the Van Dyke Road crossing for more than 20 minutes.

"It is totally unacceptable that CN had no regard for the communities in which they transport through," the reader wrote. She said she called the CN emergency line, only to be put on hold for more than 10 minutes before being told it would take another 20 minutes to get the train going.

"Who are they to be able to shut down an entire community from transportation?" she said. 

Last year, village trustee Jim Racich expressed concern over trains stopping and simply parking in the middle of the village.

"I live in Wallin Woods," Racich said. "I can see the railroad tracks. On more than one occasion, I saw the train parked between Lockport Street and Renwick Road."

Racich said he was concerned about trains transporting hazardous materials through the village, particularly with the proximity of the train tracks to local schools.

"If one of them ever explodes, it's going to take out the high school," Racich said. "It would be a devastating situation."

Generally, Konopek said, trains are halted for about 20 minutes so that CN can check the sensors.

"Twenty minutes can really back up traffic," he said.

A Canadian National rep did not immediately return a call from Patch on Monday.
Tony Filippelli February 22, 2014 at 02:24 PM
Simple, pull a Diagio truck across the track and park it. Cn will get the hint real quick!
Jimmy Armstrong February 22, 2014 at 03:26 PM
Des Plaines used to have a local ordinance against trains stopping on the tracks for a period of time. The train companies took it to court and won, stating that the trains were there first, and the village grew around it. Kinda a valid point.
Joki2 February 23, 2014 at 09:14 AM
I remember years ago local government telling Plainfield residents the trains coming through will be like a long red light. Not true!!! Plainfield needs to act on this issue for their people they represent.
Ericus Alanas February 23, 2014 at 12:16 PM
Margaret, Chicago and CN saw this as a great idea because originally the train was routed through chicago and they had too many train and car related traffic problems.
Rob Haislip February 23, 2014 at 06:08 PM
Can anyone tell me how often the trains come through the area off of 119th just east of the tracks? We have looked at homes in that area and have done concerns about the train traffic and how loud the trains are. This particular subdivision looks to be about 2/10 of a mile from the tracks.

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