Environmental Assessment and Service Development Plan - Project Update
(Updated November 2017)
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), are in the process of completing an Environmental Assessment (EA) and Service Development Plan (SDP) studying the increase in Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service to 10 round trips per day between Chicago, Ill., and Milwaukee, Wis.
In the last project update in February 2017, the project team summarized the comments that were received during the public comment period. The update acknowledged concerns regarding noise and vibration and air quality impacts, and that the project team would be doing additional analyses to further quantify the potential impacts resulting from the increase in Hiawatha Service.
Since February, the project team has been busy performing a capacity analysis of the Metra-portion of the corridor between Chicago and Green Oaks, Ill. Metra is Chicago’s commuter railroad and owns the track that the Hiawatha Service operates over in that segment of the Amtrak corridor. The purpose of the analysis is to evaluate several design alternatives and validate that the identified infrastructure improvements will mitigate the impact of adding 3 round trips per day to the Metra corridor. The analysis will allow for more quantitative noise and vibration and air quality analyses for future conditions, which will be included in the Final EA.
The capacity analysis is expected to be complete in December 2017. Then, a final list of infrastructure improvements will be identified and evaluated for environmental impact. All final infrastructure improvements will be evaluated for impact to noise and vibration, air quality, wetlands, water resources, biological resources, cultural resources, and others. A meeting will be held with agencies, municipal leaders, and state legislators to communicate the results of the analyses in early 2018. Comments will be solicited from the meeting participants and incorporated into the Final EA and SDP. These final documents will be released to the public in spring 2018. The public will be able to review the Final EA and submit comments to the project team.
All comments received after the Final EA is released will be incorporated into the decision document.
Future project updates will be posted to this webpage and illinoisrail.org.
Public meeting and comment period
On October 6, 2016, a Draft EA of the Chicago-Milwaukee Intercity Passenger Rail Program was made available for public comment. The document was available for review at WisDOT and IDOT, local public libraries and electronically on the project website.
The initial public comment period was open through November 15, 2016. More than 350 public comments were received during the initial public comment period. During this time, a public hearing was held in Milwaukee, Wis., and public meetings were held in Chicago and Glenview, Ill. Attendance and number of comments received at each meeting are as follows:
- Public Hearing in Milwaukee, Wis., on October 27, 2016: 52 people signed in and 13 comments were received
- Public Meeting in Chicago, Ill., on November 1, 2016: 29 people signed in and 3 comments were received
- Public Meeting in Glenview, Ill., on November 2, 2016: 256 people signed in and 225 comments were received
A 60-day extension of the comment period was requested and was granted by WisDOT and IDOT, the project sponsors, to allow agencies, stakeholders and the public additional time to review the Draft EA. During the comment period extension, an additional 300 comments were received. The comment period closed on January 15, 2017.
While many of the comments were supportive of the project, a majority of the comments were submitted from northern Illinois suburban communities and expressed concern regarding the purpose and need for the project, the possibility for additional freight rail traffic, and the potential for idling freight trains to produce air pollution and noise and vibration impacts to adjacent neighborhoods. Other concerns included the cost of the project and the source of funding, pedestrian safety, traffic delays at grade crossings, potential derailments and the project’s effects on adjacent property values.
All agency and public comments will be incorporated into the Final EA.
For questions on the project, contact: DOTChicagoMilwaukeePassengerRailEA@dot.wi.gov