Every night of the week, residents of Riverside and North Riverside are treated to a local version of “The Horn Blows at Midnight” as trains rumble through along the Chicago, Central & Pacific rail line.
But in the aftermath of the Federal Railway Administration’s ruling earlier this year allowing the creation of quiet zones along rail lines in the Chicago metropolitan area, Riverside, North Riverside and Berwyn, with the assistance of the West Central Municipal Conference, are partnering to explore establishing a quiet zone along the CCP tracks.
Last week, Riverside and Berwyn jointly applied for a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to augment safety controls at the Harlem Avenue grade crossing just south of 26th Street.
Meanwhile, the three villages are expected to try and enlist Broadview and Hillside in their cause to establish a quiet zone all along the CCP line from Harlem Avenue to DuPage County. According to Riverside Village Manager Kathleen Rush, if the villages can manage to pool resources to establish augmented grade crossing barriers at Harlem Avenue and on Cermak Road just east of First Avenue, they may be able to keep train horns from blaring through the night.
“The important thing is that we have three communities working together to the advantage of residents in some way,” Rush said.
Rush said the grant application submitted to IDOT estimates it will cost $300,000 to upgrade the grade crossing at Harlem Avenue. She added that the most likely solution would be to install a four-quadrant gate system, which would completely block traffic from crossing the tracks.
If awarded, the grant being sought by Berwyn and Riverside would pay for approximately 90 percent of the cost of the improvement, Rush said.
“I don’t know what the percentage would be, but it could be a minimal expense to any one community,” Rush said.
While the new cooperation between all three towns may pay dividends in the future, working together and even erecting better grade crossing barriers won’t guarantee that a quiet zone will be established along the CCP line.
As a result, the three villages are looking to hire a consultant to write a safety analysis that can be presented to the CCP railroad as a means of persuading them to agree to the quiet zone. Previously, the CCP Railroad has been adamant in its refusal to allow a quiet zone along the line unless municipalities agreed to bear 100 percent liability.
However, in a recent meeting with railroad officials, Rush said they appeared open to considering a quiet zone.
“If the railroad objects, then the whole thing is done,” Rush said. “We have to have a complete analysis for the railroad to make an informed decision.”
North Riverside Village Administrator Guy Belmonte cautioned that it would likely take a long time before an quiet zone was established.
“Mayor [Richard] Scheck has been in office 16-and-a-half years, and it’s been one of the major things he’s worked on. This is not going to happen overnight.”
In the meantime, Riverside and Brookfield will be able to maintain the quiet zones already established along the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad tracks. However, within five to eight years, some grade crossings may have to be improved in order to maintain that quiet zone. Exactly which crossings on that line would have to be improved isn’t known at this time.