Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by Tadman
 
I've always found the Blocksom plan an interesting compromise. It follows the former Monon ROW from the station to the Blocksom plant. While the Blue Chip complains about freight trains, I think it's important to note that most of the freight is handled between Lincoln yard and Kensington. While there is some freight traffic to shops, most freight trains I see are light power moves headed west to work somewhere. Then there's the issue of the Blue Chip having no window on the boat...
  by jb9152
 
Tadman wrote:I've always found the Blocksom plan an interesting compromise. It follows the former Monon ROW from the station to the Blocksom plant. While the Blue Chip complains about freight trains, I think it's important to note that most of the freight is handled between Lincoln yard and Kensington. While there is some freight traffic to shops, most freight trains I see are light power moves headed west to work somewhere. Then there's the issue of the Blue Chip having no window on the boat...
True, but the power always comes from and goes back to the Shops. I think it's mainly the noise and emissions of the GP-38s that they object to. Whether or not there are cars attached isn't quite as bothersome, although I'm sure there'd be a negative reaction to, say, 100-car coals trains!
  by Tadman
 
Interesting perspective on the noise. The unit coal train perspective is valid in my mind as well . However the noise of a few geeps passing in notch 2 about four times/day just isn't that noisy. No noisier than passing motoryachts and barely noiser than passing semis or Amtrak equipment. I sat on a train at shops yesterday for 10+ waiting for another train to clear and there was a few pairs of idling geeps. I could tell something was nearby but it was by no means obtrusive.
  by jb9152
 
Tadman wrote:Interesting perspective on the noise. The unit coal train perspective is valid in my mind as well . However the noise of a few geeps passing in notch 2 about four times/day just isn't that noisy. No noisier than passing motoryachts and barely noiser than passing semis or Amtrak equipment. I sat on a train at shops yesterday for 10+ waiting for another train to clear and there was a few pairs of idling geeps. I could tell something was nearby but it was by no means obtrusive.
Agreed, but it's not necessarily the reality that has to be fought, it's the perception. Apparently, the perception is that freight engines passing along the creekfront and by the casino is a big noise and emissions problem.
  by jlaroccoii
 
Noise by the boat, maybe. However it would be covered, for the most part, by the boats noise. As for the emissions at least the locomotives would be doing something other than just setting there unable to move.

My point is, the boat is powered by diesel the same as the geeps and is in one spot 24/7. Which would emit more?

On another note, if the AMTRAK gets their high speed rail the "trail creek swing bridge" would have to be replaced anyway. Or in the very least upgraded to allow electric wire to be strung up. At least that was part of the argument for the South Shore not being able to use it.

Cost in this world is everthing now. Regardless of what happens money is going to be spent. The "what if they could share a bridge" argument is one I would wonder about. Any movement the South Shore makes would still have to cross Amtrak. So in essance they would still control their movements the same as they do now.

At this point I just want this to be over and done. Whatever improves the line is good for me.
  by jb9152
 
jlaroccoii wrote:Noise by the boat, maybe. However it would be covered, for the most part, by the boats noise. As for the emissions at least the locomotives would be doing something other than just setting there unable to move.

My point is, the boat is powered by diesel the same as the geeps and is in one spot 24/7. Which would emit more?
The actual point is - it doesn't matter, because the perception is that the Geeps are noisy and dirty. The problem to be overcome is one of perception.
jlaroccoii wrote:On another note, if the AMTRAK gets their high speed rail the "trail creek swing bridge" would have to be replaced anyway. Or in the very least upgraded to allow electric wire to be strung up. At least that was part of the argument for the South Shore not being able to use it.
HSR won't run via the current alignment, most likely. It's not fit for true high speed operations. The plans I've seen for midwest HSR don't include the current Amtrak route.
jlaroccoii wrote:Cost in this world is everthing now. Regardless of what happens money is going to be spent. The "what if they could share a bridge" argument is one I would wonder about. Any movement the South Shore makes would still have to cross Amtrak. So in essance they would still control their movements the same as they do now.
No, not really. Right now, Amtrak controls a single interlocked crossing at grade with the South Shore. The South Shore can and has "scheduled around" that as much as possible. If the South Shore were to actually run on Amtrak's rails, they would be directly under the control of Amtrak train directors in Chicago for several miles. NICTD wants to avoid handing over any more control of its railroad to foreign railroads as possible.

Your point about cost is correct, however. The northern route over Amtrak would cost three times as much as the 11th Street or CSX Ames Field alignments. For that reason alone, it's probably infeasible (let alone all of the other issues with the route).
  by MissCarol
 
I own and live in one of the homes to be demolished. My sister lives and owns the house next to mine. she also works in one of the buildings to be demolished. Actually we own 2 of the best homes scheduled to be purchased. Frankly we have no problem with the purchase of our homes. There are federal guidelines dealing with this that have to be followed. and owners will be compensated fairly for their homes. I wish they would give us a time-line. There have been several homes I would have loved to move to that have sold in just the last couple of months. I have been watching the real estate in Michigan City and there are several homes that would work for me for sale as I type this. However they will be sold I am sure before this all goes through.
I was at the meetings and yes there may have been 150 people at the meetings but you have to realize most were "couples" which brings it down to 75 families accounted for. Not all were against the development. Actually most like me were there to get information as to the time-line. How long do we have? This has still not been answered. A lot of the other homes are rentals and are in disrepair. Quite frankly it will not be great loss as the home owners will do ok. We will get fair market value, moving expenses, relocation fees, plus other moneys if needed to get a home of equal upkeep if they are asking more money than ours was valued they have to make up the difference per federal law.
  by dinwitty
 
I don't think there is any definative timeline established, if it's done correctly it could happen in steps, work done here then there with a smart progression. I believe every angle will be worked on correctly, for the sale/purchase of homes, I would think if you are in the position to ready a move out, just let South Shore/NICTD know about it, perhaps they will come to you and talk over details and see where you stand at.
Its a major project and won't happen overnight. Its in planning stages so they are doing a community reachout so they can plan accordingly and listen to ideas that will fit best.

They're not going to rumble in with dozers at any unexpected time, they know about community involvement and thats where you are needed.
JB may know more. Thanx for visiting the forum!

cheers.
  by justalurker66
 
I'd start with the address and phone number on their website at http://www.nictd.com/contactus.html
(No, I wouldn't use the comment form to contact them for this ... but the phone number and address is there.)

They are likely years away from being able to purchase your home ... especially with the local controversy over the route. Right now they are looking for money to do the study that will decide which route is best ... then they will look for money to actually buy properties and build the route. Years may be an understatement, but the good news is that this project does have a deadline looming. NICTD needs to get out of the street in order to fully implement positive train control.

If you are seeing bargains in a neighborhood you want to live in perhaps you should just sell your house now and move on? Don't throw away your current property for nothing. The government isn't going to be overly generous when purchasing your property ... if your property value drops you may end up getting less. Knowing the right price is not always easy.
  by dinwitty
 
may be better to negotiate a deal with NICTD than maybe to someone else who then has to turn around and sell it again, probably not worth the time and trouble for the project from both sides of the fence. If NICTD buys it off, they may not need to raze it right off, but then could rental it out till D-Day.
  by justalurker66
 
There are real estate speculators out there who would be willing to buy. They can be the kind that want to buy it, rent it out for a couple of years and hope that NICTD pays more for it than they did. Perhaps even someone who doesn't want the 11th St route who thinks owning one of the houses on the route will give them more leverage (when in reality they will likely see eminent domain pricing).

The bottom line is to get a price you feel is good ... and not worry about the next owner (if not NICTD).

Call them ... see what they say, but I suspect there is no cash for purchases at this time and (at best) they will likely want to work out some option to buy "in the future" when the actual project is funded.
  by jb9152
 
I've just finished a very VERY preliminary review of the FRA's final PTC rule, and I think that while an MTEA (main track exclusion addendum) may be possible for NICTD (exempting the street running from the PTC mandate), it will be very difficult to obtain.

To be granted an MTEA, a passenger railroad can apply to have some of its trackage classified as "not main line" (and therefore be exempted from the PTC mandate), under the following conditions:

1. Tracks are used exclusively as yard or terminal tracks (the street running could possibly fit this bill, although it does not currently - the yard limits territory would need to be extended all the way through the street-running portion of the line),
2. Maximum authorized speed is 20 mph or less, and that speed is enforced by the PTC on-board system (current maximum speed is 25 mph; this would have to be reduced to 20 mph - not a tragedy, but also not something that NICTD will find very attractive, as it's a step backward in terms of the strategic vision of reducing travel times across the line),
3. Interlocking rules are in effect that prohibit reverse movements other than on signal indications without dispatcher permission (under NICTD's rules, this is the case or could be made the case), and
4. Either no freight movements are made (which is obviously an impossibility - the SouthShore Freight operates out of the Shops at Carroll Avenue and uses the street running territory to get to the west) - OR - Freight operations are permitted, but there will be no passengers aboard passenger trains within the defined limits (another impossibility, for obvious reasons).

So, under those guidelines an MTEA cannot be approved, mainly because of provision 4.

There are a second set of conditions under which an MTEA could be approved:

1. All trains are limited to restricted speed (which is 20 mph - current maximum speed is 25 mph, which would have to be lowered, as in the previous set of conditions; not attractive to the railroad),
2. Temporal separation of trains is maintained (freight and passenger trains do not operate on any shared segment of track during the same time period; I need to dig into this a bit more, since this is on its face impossible unless you prohibit SouthShore Freight to operate during times when NICTD does not - not going to happen) - OR - Passenger service is operated under a risk mitigation plan submitted by all railroads operating in the territory - NICTD and SouthShore Freight - and approved by the FRA.

An MTEA under the second set of conditions might be possible, but the key is the risk mitigation plan, which must under the final PTC rule "...be supported by a risk assessment establishing that the proposed mitigations will achieve a level of safety not less than the level of safety that would obtain if the operations were conducted under paragraph ©(1) or ©(2) of this section...", which means that NICTD and SouthShore Freight would have to absolutely convince the FRA that the street running operation is at least as safe as temporally separating the types of trains (i.e. having the freights operate at different time periods than the passenger trains). That might be a very hard sell.

So, this will be a challenge, to say the least.
  by justalurker66
 
Thanks for sharing your early observations.
jb9152 wrote:4. Either no freight movements are made (which is obviously an impossibility - the SouthShore Freight operates out of the Shops at Carroll Avenue and uses the street running territory to get to the west) - OR - Freight operations are permitted, but there will be no passengers aboard passenger trains within the defined limits (another impossibility, for obvious reasons).

So, under those guidelines an MTEA cannot be approved, mainly because of provision 4.
Here is a wild thought ... Kick SouthShore off of the NICTD line between Shops and Sheridan. Make them use the IIDC (former NS) line north to Amtrak's line to get between Shops and Sheridan. Let IIDC/SouthShore deal with reinstalling the rail connection and scheduling problems with Amtrak (which should be a lot easier for SouthShore's level of service than the combined SouthShore/NICTD level of service.
2. Temporal separation of trains is maintained (freight and passenger trains do not operate on any shared segment of track during the same time period; I need to dig into this a bit more, since this is on its face impossible unless you prohibit SouthShore Freight to operate during times when NICTD does not - not going to happen) - OR - Passenger service is operated under a risk mitigation plan submitted by all railroads operating in the territory - NICTD and SouthShore Freight - and approved by the FRA.
How separated does the time need to be? Does it have to be set times that passenger trains never run and freights never run or can the railroads set "passenger only" and "freight only" times on demand? (I expect the former. No "on demand" changes.) Also how long do the periods have to be? Could a railroad theoretically define odd hours as freight and even hours as passenger on a segment of rail? (That wouldn't work for NICTD, but carving specific "freight holes" in the day might be possible. Personally I believe the FRA is looking for LONG periods of time, such as hours between morning runs into downtown and evening runs back to the burbs or overnight hours between those runs - not small windows.)

The risk mitigation plan has some promise. I suppose it helps that there have been no passenger or crew fatal accidents on that section of line. SouthShore and NICTD and their precursors have managed the risk quite well for over 100 years. Obviously the best solution is to get out of the street and get PTC installed (no exemption required) ... but hopefully the FRA would be willing to accept risk mitigation.
So, this will be a challenge, to say the least.
That is an understatement. Mandates such as PTC make running the system difficult, unfunded mandates more so.
Best wishes as you figure this all out.
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