Inspectors monitor Elmwood Park tracks
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:02AM
ELMWOOD PARK — The extreme hot weather is concerning some about the safety of railroad tracks that crisscross through the west suburbs.
Elmwood Park Mayor Peter Silvestri said they’ve had representatives from Christopher B. Burke Engineering out inspecting the tracks.
The hot weather is being considered as the possible reason behind a train derailment and bridge collapse in Glenview. Extreme heat can cause railroad tracks to buckle or crack.
While Elmwood Park has no train bridges, it does have train tracks — operated by Metra and Canadian Pacific — that run through the village.
Pioneer Press has sent Freedom of Information Act requests to several agencies that deal with railroads asking for information, such as inspection reports, about rail bridges.
The CTA has denied the request on the grounds that it was too burdensome, an exemption allowed under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Pioneer Press asked for information on rail bridges in more than 50 communities that are in the newspaper group’s coverage area. The CTA has asked Pioneer to reduce its request to a more manageable level, which it is doing.
Amtrak and Metra have indicated they are working on the requests. Pioneer Press is working with the Federal Railroad Administration to get information about railroad tracks.
Railroads are responsible for maintaining their own rail bridges, which federal law requires be inspected twice a year. And they don’t have to routinely provide the Federal Railroad Administration with the results of inspections they conduct.
The FRA has said it would be “counterproductive” to require railroads to do so. Companies have a “vested interest in maintaining the proper design, inspection, maintenance and repair of their railroad bridges, as they are essential to the flow of commerce and passengers in the United States,” Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Michael England said.
Meg Reile, spokeswoman for Metra, said she has not heard of any problems on their railroad tracks that run through Elmwood Park or River Grove, but they’ve stepped up their inspections of their tracks in light of the hot weather.
She said they usually inspect tracks a minimum of every three days, but in cases of extreme heat or cold they inspect them everyday.
“When temperatures exceed 95 degrees we reduce our (train) speed by 10 mph. It reduces the force on the rails and the chance for buckling or kinking to occur,” she said.
Reile said if inspectors discover a section of rail that has buckled or kinked repairing the damage is the next step.
“We close down that section of rail and immediately start repairs or slow traffic on the rail until repairs can be made,” she said.
Ed Greenberg, spokesman for Canadian Pacific said they also increase track inspections during extreme weather conditions. “We’ve been monitoring the hot weather conditions,” he said.
“It’s part of our company’s focus on safety that we have our comprehensive track inspection in place,” he said. “We increased track patrols and track inspections along the system.”
He said they adjust the speed of their trains as they move through each region depending on the weather conditions. Greenberg said locally their railroad tracks are fine.
“I’m not aware of any issues but our railroad has been managing the hot weather situation and have adjusted our train operation as required,” he said. “Part of our protocol and processes is increasing track patrols and track inspections along the system and adjust the speed of our trains as they move through each region.”
Tina Sfondeles of Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.