Highland Park, News

Highland Park council takes action in effort to curb idling trains

Highland Park’s City Council took action during its meeting to mitigate what city officials described as “excessive noise and air pollution” that’s a result of “unnecessary diesel locomotive idling and excessive horn use.”

Councilmembers unanimously approved an ordinance requesting that rail carriers immediately cease unnecessary diesel locomotive idling and excessive horn use to work toward resolving a number of community concerns. 

According to a memo from the office of City Manager Ghida Neukirch, Highland Park staff continually receive complaints from residents and local businesses regarding “ongoing excessive noise and pollution from diesel locomotive freight and commuter trains.” 

The memo also states that these trains idle excessively for long periods of time throughout the day, evening and overnight hours along both east and west Union Pacific railways in Highland Park. 

City officials also received “consistent complaints” related to noise disruption from “excessive train horn usage at all hours,” the memo says. During the council meeting on May 28, Neukirch added that the resolution stems from “a number of resident complaints the city received pertaining to the freight rail system adjacent to residential homes.” 

According to information from the city, the Union Pacific Railroad operates diesel locomotive freight trains along their west train line in Highland Park. City officials say that throughout the past several years, freight train activity has increased in the region, and in Highland Park, specifically, year-round.

The increased activity has also led to freight trains stopping, staging, idling, waiting and parking for long periods of time, per the memo.  

Union Pacific also continually operates diesel locomotive Metra commuter trains and maintenance trains along its east train line in Highland Park during the early morning hours Monday-Friday, according to city officials.

Per information included in Neukirch’s memo, a “train incident on either train line in or outside the City may cause trains to stop, stage, idle, wait or park for long periods of time in both commercial and residential areas.” 

“The loud noise and air pollution from diesel locomotive freight and commuter trains which idle unnecessarily longer than 30 minutes is audible within five miles of either side of the Union Pacific Railroad east and west lines, and negatively impacts the quality of life for City residents, visitors, and area businesses,” the memo reads. 

City officials say they have spoken with representatives from Union Pacific several times. During those conversations, the city learned that trains on these rail lines can reach up to 13,000 feet in length and that the only location for these trains to stage in the region without blocking an intersection is in Highland Park near Park Avenue. 

Highland Park officials hope the resolution leads to a change in operations.

“Although we certainly understand their operations as well as the importance of public safety, we are urging them to review their operations to again mitigate the idling in our community as well as the horn use,” Neukirch said during the meeting.

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martin carlino
Martin Carlino

Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.

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