Study To Review Expanding Hiawatha Service

Expansion of Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service will be addressed in an environmental assessment to be released on Thursday.

Hiawatha 2The study was performed by the Federal Railroad Administration and the state departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin. The latter two agencies help fund the Chicago-Milwaukee service.

Amtrak has proposed adding three more Hiawatha roundtrips.

“As part of that environmental study, they are looking at different alternatives for track improvements, upgrades and different things that could be done to improve the service,” said Scott Speegle, passenger rail marketing manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation,

Speegle declined to talk about the specific findings of the assessment.

The service increase was broached in January 2015 in the wake of rising ridership on the route, which also hosts the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Amtrak said some Hiawatha Service trains have experienced standing room only loads.

Officials and residents of Glenview, which is served by the Hiawathas, have express concern about building a two-mile freight train holding track, which would be used to allow freight trains to stop to let passenger trains pass.

The proposed holding track would be added on the west side of the existing two Metra rail lines, starting in Glenview near West Lake Avenue, and then head northeast over Shermer and Willow roads to the shopping area on Patriot Boulevard, ending near Techny Road.

Some residents fear that freight trains might be held in the siding for hours.

Glenview officials have suggested the track be placed elsewhere in order to address their  pollution, noise and derailment concerns.

IDOT’s Speegle said the details of project are not yet final and the FRA will approve it based on the environmental assessment, which will take into consideration the opinions and concerns of local officials and residents.

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