U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski was joined by more than 20 local officials Monday in urging CN to allow Metra to expand service on the Heritage Corridor Line and accommodate at least two additional trains a day. Adding two trains would boost commuter rail service to four round-trips a day in a growing area underserved by public transportation.
In a letter led by Lipinski, regional leaders asked the Canadian railroad company to work with Metra to accommodate the added service in order to improve employment opportunities for the region's residents and promote long-term economic development and job growth. The request follows on the heels of a letter to CN by newly appointed Metra Board Chairman Brad O'Halloran asking for more service on the line.
“The level of service on the Heritage Corridor Line lags far behind what is offered on other commuter routes on the Metra system,” Lipinski said. “We understand that service is constrained by CN freight traffic and infrastructure limitations, but we believe that modest adjustments in freight schedules would make it is possible to add at least one additional train in the morning and one in the evening.We urge CN to act in the public interest and work with Metra to accommodate this improvement as soon as possible so people living in communities served by the Heritage Corridor Line can begin to have commuting options already afforded to others in northeastern Illinois.
“The population in Will County and southwest Cook County has grown substantially the last decade. The Heritage Corridor Line is not keeping pace,” Lipinski added. “This needs to end.”
Operated by Metra on tracks owned and managed by CN, the Heritage Corridor Line runs between Joliet and Chicago’s Union Station, stopping in Lockport, Lemont, Willow Springs and Summit. A new station in Romeoville is also in the works. Since 1999, the line has run only six trains a day -- three trains in the morning rush hour and three trains in the evening rush hour. Metra’s other 10 commuter routes offer between 22 and 170 trains a day, leaving a major mass transit gap in the southwest suburbs.
“As Metra’s new chairman, my first responsibility is to ensure quality service for all of our customers, including those along the Heritage Corridor Line,” O'Halloran said. “I appreciate Congressman Lipinski’s leadership on this important issue and look forward to working with him and our partners at CN to see that Heritage Corridor Line customers experience a frequency of service that approaches what riders on Metra’s other commuter lines have come to expect.”
In the letter to CN, Lipinski and local officials note that between 2000 and 2010, the populations of Romeoville, Joliet, and Lockport grew by 88 percent, 39 percent, and 12 percent, respectively. Southwest Cook County has also grown over the past 10 years, with the populations of Lemont, Willow Springs, and Summit increasing by 22 percent, 10 percent, and 4 percent, respectively. At the same time, ridership on the Heritage Corridor Line also expanded. In 2002, 572,488 rides were taken on the line. In 2011, that number was 711,632, a 24 percent increase. Clearly, three round-trips a day no longer satisfy the demand for service.
“With construction of a new Romeoville station starting soon, increasing the level of service on the Heritage Corridor Line needs to be a priority to make the stop even more of a success,” Romeoville Mayor John Noak said. “We are in the fastest-growing county in the state. As the population continues to grow, we need CN's partnership to help us provide our residents better transit options and access to jobs.”
“Increasing Metra service has been a desire of Lemont residents and commuters for many, many years,” Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves said. “We are optimistic that CN, as a longtime member of the Lemont business community, will give this request the consideration and the attention our residents deserve.”
Lipinski has led the push to improve the reliability of the Heritage Corridor Line. Earlier this year, Lipinski successfully worked with Metra and CN to dramatically improve the line's on-time performance. Historically one of Metra’s worst-performing lines, the Heritage Corridor Line ended 2011 with an on-time performance of 86.2 percent. For the first eight months of this year, on-time performance had improved to 95.7 percent.
“We are asking CN to make accommodations as soon as possible to allow for these two additional daily trains,” Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said. “For too long, Heritage Corridor Line commuters have been forced to juggle their home and family responsibilities based on just six trains a day, far below the number of trains on the rest of the Metra system. We are hopeful that CN and Metra will take the steps to ensure that residents of our region get the level of service they deserve.”
The letter sent to CN today was signed by Radogno, Reaves and Noak, as well as State Sen. Steven Landek; State Sen. Pat McGuire; Cook County Commissioner Jeffery R. Tobolski; Bedford Park Village President David R. Brady; Assistant House Minority Leader Jim Durkin; Will County Executive Lawrence M. Walsh; 23rd Ward Ald. Michael Zalewski; Crest Hill Mayor Raymond R. Soliman; Homer Glen Mayor James P. Daley; Justice Village President Krzysztof Wasowicz; Lockport Mayor Dev Trivedi; Summit Mayor Joseph W. Strzelczyk; Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante; State Rep. Michael Zalewski; Cook County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy; State Rep. Emily McAsey; State Rep. Lawrence Walsh Jr; and Willow Springs Mayor Alan Nowaczyk.
Editor's note: The information above is from a press release issued by the office of U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski.
Would you like to see more trains added to the Heritage Corridor line? When? How many? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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