CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Many people have voiced their complaints about trains sitting stopped at railroad crossings in the rural areas of central Illinois.
On social media, many have voiced complaints. One community member said there were trains stopped at all crossings in Cerro Gordo. To get home she had to drive out of the village to get to where she lives. Many commented on similar issues in Cerro Gordo and Bement on social media.
“Yes, it was 1:30 a.m., all crossings in CG were blocked,” said Bo Champion of Cerro Gordo. “200 East Road was closed, 300 was closed. Had to cross at 400 East Road, one mile west of Milmine.”
“They still sit at times, but I haven’t noticed them sitting as much here lately,” said Sara O’laughlin of Oakley. “There for a while, they were constantly sitting for long periods. However, most of the time they do leave at least the main one open.”
In Oakley Township, there are two ways to cross the tracks. One is inside of the township next to the grain elevator; the other is on the highway Oakley Blacktop.
In case of an emergency, the Argenta Fire Department Chief said they would request them for service.
In Bement, Mayor Pat Tieman knows the situation well, as it has been an ongoing issue for residents in the area for quite some time. However, Tieman says the situation has vastly improved.
“They are making definite improvements,” Tieman said.
Tieman and Public Works Director Chad Corum have met with the Illinois Railroad several times. Around four months ago, the Regional Director of the Illinois Railroad, Hubert Smith, made a point to meet with the leaders in Bement to solve the problem.
Tieman said they are having another public meeting soon to address issues.
Connor Spilmaker with Norfolk Southern was contacted and said that these areas see significant traffic compared to other parts of the network due to being so close to the Decatur terminal by ADM.
“Our goal is to keep our trains moving to deliver goods for our customers – but sometimes trains do have to stop,” Spilmaker said. “Reasons can include congestion in a railyard, traffic ahead on the track, and maintenance issues – plus, our crews working hours are regulated by the federal government (similar to airline pilots), and can only work a certain number of hours in a day. Sometimes all of these forces can combine and result in extended delays, especially as we continue to recover from staffing challenges from the pandemic.”
Spilmaker said they are attempting to address any issues
“We’re doing a number of things as we continue to seek long-term solutions to blocked crossing issues, most relevant today is in continuing to grow our ranks of conductors,” he said.
Spilmaker said they increased pay for conductor trainees and are offering new-hire bonuses to retain workers. He added that there is a concern if any crossing is blocked.
“Most importantly, we never want to inconvenience a member of any community with blocked crossings,” he said. “All of our crews work hard to keep trains moving, and to minimize the impact of stopped trains as much as possible.”