Residents, Public Officials Await FRA Response to Hiawatha Expansion Environmental Assessment

Residents and public officials in the north Chicago suburbs are waiting for the Federal Railroad Administration to respond to a proposal to expand Amtrak’s Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service.

Hiawatha 2The expansion, which is not a sure thing to occur even with FRA approval, has raised hackles along the Hiawatha route because it calls for the building of a passing siding for Canadian Pacific freight trains to wait for Amtrak and Metra passenger trains.

Although an environmental assessment study released last year found the siding would not have a negative environmental impact, public officials and residents have challenged that during a series of public meetings and called for a complete environmental impact study.

The departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin fund the Hiawatha Service and want to increase the number of daily trains from seven to 10.

A public comment period on the environmental assessment ended on Jan. 15. The comments received have been sent to the state DOTs and Amtrak. Residents have expressed concern about noise, vibration, diesel fumes and flooding.

The FRA is expected to respond to the environmental assessment during the first quarter of 2017.

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