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Our view: More trains are needed on Metra’s Heritage Corridor line

Updated: January 29, 2013 6:18AM



For all the talk of making Joliet a key stop on a proposed high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis, residents of the city and other southwest suburbs need a more immediate benefit.

They need more trains on Metra’s Heritage Corridor line to serve the ballooning population in the area.

That’s why 20 area officials, led by U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, have written to the Canadian National Railway asking it to open up its rails to more Heritage Corridor passenger trains. Metra officials sent a similar letter.

We think public and political pressure is an entirely appropriate inspiration for CN, which owns the line and fills it with freight traffic. CN needs to respond with action.

Only six Metra trains a day run on the Heritage Corridor line — three during the morning rush and three during the evening rush. Metra’s other 10 commuter routes offer between 22 and 170 trains a day. That makes the Heritage Corridor the least-used Metra line in the region.

CN has been conducting a state-funded study of the issue for almost a year, and the report should have been finished months ago. Now it’s time for action.

Readjusting freight schedules could help open the line to more Metra traffic. While CN has seemed publicly supportive of the idea, railroad officials also suggest it’s more complicated than just adjusting schedules for the freight, Metra and Amtrak trains already using the rails.

CN officials want government money to provide “significant capacity upgrades.” The 37-mile Heritage Corridor is complex from a technical standpoint. Metra trains have to commonly negotiate 10-mph crossovers, and they’re usually held to a 30-mph speed limit.

Whatever the line’s ultimate role in high speed, more passenger traffic means the line needs to be upgraded — and soon.

That cost does not decrease by waiting. And passengers should not have to wait forever, either.



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