CHICAGO — Tired of trains blocking South Side intersections, the city is seeking fines and sanctions against CSX Transportation.
The city and suburban Evergreen Park are petitioning the Surface Transportation Board, asking the federal board to fine CSX, continue monitoring them and increase auditing. CSX Transportation runs trains along the Elsdon railroad line, but it's violated federal requirements by "repeatedly blocking" railway and road intersections, according to the city.
The trains block roads, even at rush hour, for "significant periods of time ... despite binding conditions imposed by the [Surface Transportation Board] intended to avoid this occurrence," according to the city. Crossings that have been blocked along 95th Street are "particularly of concern" because they can hamper access to Little Company of Mary Hospital and Advocate Christ Medical Center.
“Ever since CSX secured the right to operate on this track, residents have told us that trains along the Elsdon Line routinely cause lengthy delays that not only inconvenience residents but threaten public safety by blocking access to area hospitals,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a city news release.
But CSX spokeswoman Gail Lobin said the company has tried to curb its effect on the area while updating the railroad and crossings and installing monitoring technology.
The company has not been able to review the city's filings, Lobin said, and it could not comment on specific allegations.
"CSX has worked diligently to limit the impact of our operations on communities in that area, including Beverly and Evergreen Park, by reducing train delays and improving railroad performance," Lobin said in an emailed statement. "We have been collaborative and transparent with community leaders, through progress updates and meetings, as we have worked to address community concerns."
Emanuel, Ald. Matthew O'Shea (19th) and other leaders have tried to address the concerns with CSX for three years, but there's been "very little to show for that effort," O'Shea said.
CSX has used the Elsdon Line for trains since 2013. It was supposed to break trains into two parts when expecting a block that could last more than 10 minutes, according to the city, and it's supposed to submit quarterly compliance reports to the Surface Transportation Board. It hasn't been compliant, according to the city.
"The CSX Elsdon line remains important to the entire Chicago region to balance the safe delivery of commerce," Lobin said in an emailed statement, "and CSX remains committed to working with affected communities to continue to reduce the impact of our operations."
Transportation companies have faced fines from the Surface Transportation Board in the past: Canadian National Railroad was fined $250,000 in 2007 when it committed violations in Chicago similar to those the city is now accusing CSX of.
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