Will County considers Gougar Road overpass at CN tracks
By Susan DeMar lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org April 1, 2014 7:20PM
Updated: May 3, 2014 6:37AM
In the wake of a recent train derailment and frequently blocked crossings, Will County is looking at building an overpass at Gougar Road at the Canadian National Railway tracks.
The site is one of six grade crossings under the county’s jurisdiction and was the scene of a three-car derailment in the early morning of Feb. 9.
New Lenox has requested that $500,000 set aside by CN in a legal settlement be used to pay for a preliminary engineering study for the overpass, but Gougar Road is not within the village limits so New Lenox sought county approval.
On Tuesday, the county board’s public works committee approved the study, which now will go to the full board for consideration. It could take one year to complete the study, which would look at traffic, environmental and drainage issues and consider all options for that crossing, which is just south of Lincoln-Way West High School and a quarter-mile north of Laraway Road, county officials said.
Building an overpass “will take a number of years and deep pockets,” village administrator Kurt Carroll said. It’s estimated to cost about $25 million and could be financed with a combination of federal, state and local money, he said.
CN bought the tracks from the EJ&E Railroad in December 2008 and planned to quadruple the number of freight trains on the line daily.
Concerned about the big increase in freight traffic, New Lenox and Will County teamed for a lawsuit to try to get CN to build a grade separation at one of its crossings, preferably Gougar Road.
The main concern was that emergency vehicles could be blocked at more than one crossing by a lengthy freight train. There are no overpasses on the CN line in the New Lenox area.
New Lenox dropped out of the suit and reached an agreement with the railroad, which offered $2 million toward the cost of crossing upgrades and $500,000 for engineering costs for an overpass project. Those funds must be used by 2015, Carroll said.
Will County received nothing, losing the suit before the Illinois Appellate Court, said Bruce Friefeld, chief of staff for the county board.
In the Feb. 9 derailment, three rail cars came off the tracks but remained upright, with one of them hitting and damaging a locomotive that was stopped on the adjacent track. There were no injuries, but the crossing was blocked for several hours.
In addition to the derailment, the Gougar Road crossing has experienced three major blockages, one lasting for five to six hours, Carroll said.
Freight traffic has “substantially increased” since CN took over the rail line, and a mile-long train can block several crossings at once, county engineer Bruce Gould said.
In the New Lenox area, there are grade crossings on the CN tracks at Schoolhouse, Spencer, Cedar, Nelson, Cherry Hill and Gougar roads. Of those, Cedar and Gougar are within Will County’s jurisdiction, Gould said.