Still no answers on stalled trains

A train waits in front of a crossing in Braidwood in October 2016. In March, a second blockage at two city crossings caused a two hour delay. State officials have yet to respond to questions on what caused the problem.
Marney Simon
Staff writer

It’s been more than two weeks since two trains stalled in Braidwood forced closure of two of the city’s three crossings for two hours, and still no word on why the closure happened from the state.

City leaders have yet to hear why the crossings were blocked on March 13, from 9:45 a.m. until 11:45 a.m.

The incident is just more evidence of what local emergency responders warned about seven years ago, when the proposed High Speed Rail (HSR) construction was set to add a siding just north of Main Street.

Since the siding was put in place in 2011, and the extended double track last year, emergency responder have argued time and again that long closures at crossings could cause a dangerous delay in response times to the other side of the tracks. But as of now, it’s a headache officials simply have to live with.

“We’ve so far to date have not been held up by a train,” Braidwood Fire Chief Ken Heberer said.

Heberer said that he’s met with officials from the state regarding the tracks, but to little avail.

“I might as well have been talking to the furniture in my office,” Heberer said. “It seemed like they listened to what we had to say, then just shrugged their shoulders.”

Heberer noted that while the state promised that the additional track wouldn’t negatively affect the city, there is little if anything that can be done now that the second line is operational. Heberer said the district is still eyeing the possibility of adding a second fire station on the east side of the crossing, but unless and until that time comes, responders will simply be aware of how the trains are running, and do their best to keep response times as quick as possible.

“It is what it is I guess,” Heberer said. “There’s nothing we can really do about it.”

This was now the second lengthy delay blocking crossings in Braidwood.

In mid-October, two freight trains were forced to come to a complete halt within the city limits of Braidwood, waiting for an Amtrak to pass through. Both freight trains, one northbound and one southbound, were approximately 1.5 miles in length. That left the northbound train, stopped just short of Main Street, obstructing two of the city's three crossings. The delay lasted 15 to 20 minutes At that time, Michael E. Stead, Rail Safety Program Administrator with the Illinois Commerce Commission, told the Braidwood Journal that extended delays are not something that residents can expect on a regular basis.

The following month, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) finally responded to an inquiry on the October incident, with IDOT spokesperson J. Scott Speegle telling the Braidwood Journal that the delay was due to HSR track construction in Dwight. At that time, Speegle also said that Union pacific was planning on making schedule changes to avoid such delays, as well as implementing other operational policy changes.

The city has been arguing with IDOT, the ICC, and Union Pacific since the HSR siding was added in 2011. In 2014, during a special meeting hosted by IDOT, the city was told that the second track would be added all the way to north of Gardner, which would reduce any potential daily delays to just 90 seconds.

However, that analysis only applied to HSR trains, not freight trains now utilizing the double line.

In theory, the double track should prevent the delays with freight trains, allowing those trains to travel at speed on one track while a HSR or Amtrak passenger train use the opposite track to pass.

But so far, as the city has now seen twice, it’s no guarantee.

IDOT has yet to respond to a request for comment from the Braidwood Journal regarding the March 13 incident.

More information on IDOT's high speed rail Chicago to St. Louis program, including sign up forms and comment forms, are available online at Residents can also call the project hotline at 1-855-436-8477, or find the project on Facebook at