This also talks about transit delays.
May 7, 2012
Freight Train Late? Blame Chicago
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
CHICAGO — When it comes to rail traffic, Chicago is America’s speed bump.
Shippers complain that a load of freight can make its way from Los Angeles to Chicago in 48 hours, then take 30 hours to travel across the city. A recent trainload of sulfur took some 27 hours to pass through Chicago — an average speed of 1.13 miles per hour, or about a quarter the pace of many electric wheelchairs.
With freight volume in the United States expected to grow by more than 80 percent in the next 20 years, delays are projected to only get worse.
The underlying reasons for this sprawling traffic jam are complex, involving history, economics and a nation’s disinclination to improve its roads, bridges, and rails.
Six of the nation’s seven biggest railroads pass through the city, a testament to Chicago’s economic might when the rail lines were laid from the 1800s on. Today, a quarter of all rail traffic in the nation touches Chicago. Nearly half of what is known as intermodal rail traffic, the big steel boxes that can be carried aboard ships, trains or trucks, roll by, or through, this city.
The slowdown involves more than freight. The other day, William C. Thompson, a project manager for the Association of American Railroads, stood next to a crossroads of steel in the Englewood neighborhood pointing to a web of tracks used by freight trains and Amtrak passenger trains that intersected tracks for Metra, Chicago’s commuter rail. The commuter trains get to go first, he said, and so, “Amtrak tells me they have more delays here than anywhere else in the system.”
More delays than anywhere else in the Chicago area? No, he explained. “In the entire United States.”