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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation H-08-002
Details
Synopsis: About 4:41 p.m. on November 23, 2005, the day before Thanksgiving, in Elmwood Park, Illinois, a traffic queue formed within the 366-foot-wide signaled METRA highway-railroad grade crossing on eastbound West Grand Avenue. At the same time, METRA train 107 was approaching the crossing on the westbound tracks at a speed of 70 mph, as indicated by event data recorder information. The crossing lights activated and the crossing gates lowered 54 seconds before the train arrived. The traffic queue trapped some stopped vehicles within the grade crossing.
Recommendation: TO THE GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: Require the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Department of Transportation to construct a grade separation in place of the West Grand Avenue grade crossing, and provide the necessary resources to effect this change.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Unacceptable Action
Mode: Highway
Location: Elmwood Park, IL, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: HWY06MH007
Accident Reports: Commuter Train Highway - Railroad Grade Crossing Accident
Report #: HAB-08-03
Accident Date: 11/23/2005
Issue Date: 6/16/2008
Date Closed: 6/14/2011
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: State of Illinois (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: State of Illinois
Date: 6/14/2011
Response: The NTSB understands the financial constraints of IDOT and regrets that the Federal Highway Administration did not select the West Grand Avenue project to receive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery II funds. Nevertheless, we continue to believe that the recommended grade separation project is necessary to ensure the public’s safety. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation H-08-02 is classified CLOSED – UNACCEPTABLE ACTION. We encourage IDOT to continue to pursue funding that will enable you to complete this project. If you procure funding in the future and thus are able to complete the grade separation project, please let us know so that we may update our files and reconsider the classification of this recommendation.

From: State of Illinois
To: NTSB
Date: 3/1/2011
Response: CC# 201100099: - From Gary Hannig, Secretary: Thank you for your recent response to our August 16, 2010 letter to you regarding Safety Recommendation H-08-2. As stated in our earlier correspondence, limited financial resources preclude the Illinois Department of Transportation from committing resources at this time to the preferred alternative. Unfortunately, the Federal Highway Administration did not select this project for TIGER II 'funds. However, please be advised that we will continue to look for opportunities to partner with the village of Elmwood Park on this project. Thank you for your interest in Illinois' transportation system. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Mr. Jeffrey M. South, P.E., Bureau Chief of Statewide Program Planning, located at 2300 South Dirksen Parkway, Room 307, Springfield, Illinois 62764, or by telephone (217) 782-2755.

From: NTSB
To: State of Illinois
Date: 1/31/2011
Response: The NTSB notes that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has been awarded $128 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The NTSB also notes that $100 million was allocated to the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant Program for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE), and the remaining $28 million has been awarded to other Illinois agencies, including $22 million for a multimodal transportation center and $6 million to the Southwestern Illinois Freight Transportation Hub. Your most recent letter states that IDOT has not allocated any TIGER funds to the West Grand Avenue project for several reasons, including (1) The West Grand Avenue project is not part of the CREATE program, (2) IDOT is not permitted to allocate funds to any project other than the five that were chosen for DOT Tiger funding, and (3) The West Grand Avenue project did not meet critical criteria identified in the TIGER announcement (TIGER funds must be completed in their entirety with those funds, and all TIGER funds are to be obligated by September 30, 2011). The NTSB is aware that IDOT has completed a feasibilty study for improvements at the grade crossing to include three feasible alternatives and that the preferred alternative involves lowering Grand Avenue under the Metra Commuter Railroad Crossing, at an estimated cost of approximately $100 million in 2010. However, IDOT indicates that limited financial resources preclude IDOT from committing resources at this time to the preferred alternative. The NTSB understands the financial contraints of IDOT, but we continue to believe that the grade separation project at West Grand Avenue is necessary to ensure the public’s safety. We encourage IDOT to continue to pursue funding that will allow for completion of this project. Pending such action, Safety Recommendation H-08-02 remains classified OPEN -- UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: State of Illinois
To: NTSB
Date: 8/16/2010
Response: CC# 201000304: - From Gary Hannig, Secretary, Illinois Department of Transportation: Thank you for your recent letter regarding Safety Recommendation H-08-2. You are correct that the Illinois Department of Transportation (lDOT) was awarded $100 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) TIGER Discretionary Grant Program for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE). The other $28 million awarded to other Illinois Agencies was specified for a Multimodal Transportation Center in Normal, Illinois ($22 million) and a Southwestern Illinois Freight Transportation Hub ($6 million). lDOT has not allocated any TIGER funds to the West Grand Avenue project for the following reasons: 1. The West Grand Avenue project is not part of the CREATE program. The CREATE program consists of 71 specific projects in the region that contribute to the overall goals of the program. These 71 programs have gone through a Federal preliminary screening process approved by lDOT and the Federal Highway Administration. We cannot spend CREATE funds on projects that are not part of the program. 2. The TIGER award was for specific CREATE projects rather than for the program as a Whole. As a result, lDOT is not permitted to allocate funds to any projects other than the five that were chosen by US DOT for TIGER funding. 3. The West Grand Avenue project would not have met two critical criteria identified in the TIGER announcement. a. Projects applying for TIGER funds had to be completed in their entirety with those funds. b. All TIGER funds must be obligated by September 30, 2011. The project selection process for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was driven by the project implementation timetable as mandated by Congress. Our agency was required to select projects that were eligible for federal funds, required preliminary engineering to be complete, had all contract bid documents completed, and had any and all land acquisition and project permits secured. These projects were termed "shovel ready" and consisted primarily of rehabilitation type improvements. Since preliminary engineering had not been initiated for the proposed grade separation project, and since improvements of this magnitude typically require several years to allow for "shovel ready" status, the project was not considered a candidate for the use of this federal fund source. At the state level, to date, the department's financial commitment towards improvements at this grade crossing has been limited to the completion of a feasibility study. The feasibility study evaluated 14 alternatives, of which 3 were determined to be feasible alternatives by lDOT, the Illinois Commerce Commission, Metra Commuter Railroad and the citizens of Elmwood Park. The preferred alternative involves lowering Grand Avenue under the Metra Commuter Railroad Crossing at an estimated cost of approximately $100 million in 2010. Due to the economic climate and our current fiscal constraints, IDOT continues to focus a majority of our limited financial resources on maintaining and rehabilitating our existing highway and bridge network. This has left minimal opportunity for our agency to commit resources towards improvements of this magnitude. We will continue to include this grade separation project in our priorities for future funding consideration when money may be available. lDOT will also continue to explore alternative funding options to allow this project to advance to fruition. Thank you for your interest in the Illinois transportation system. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Joseph E. Shacter, Director of Public and Intermodal Transportation, located at James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph, Suite 6-600, Chicago, Illinois 60601, or telephone him at (312) 793-2116.

From: NTSB
To: State of Illinois
Date: 7/9/2010
Response: The NTSB is aware of the alternatives that the Illinois Department of Transportation (DOT), the Illinois Commerce Commission, the citizens of Elmwood Park, and METRA proposed in 2007 to address this recommendation. However, the NTSB is not aware that funding has been allocated for this project. Subsequent to your September 2009 letter, NTSB staff learned that Illinois had been awarded $128 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund various transportation projects. The NTSB is also aware that $100 million of those funds have been allocated to the Illinois DOT to support the CREATE program to address rail congestion in the Chicago area, and the remaining $28 million has been awarded to additional projects throughout Illinois to address rail safety issues. Please advise us as to whether the Illinois DOT ha<; allocated any of this funding to the West Grand Avenue project. Pending notification that the project has been funded, Safety Recommendation H-08-2 is classified OPEN – UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE. Thank you for your commitment to highway safety.

From: State of Illinois
To: NTSB
Date: 9/17/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 9/29/2009 8:56:29 AM MC# 2090608 - From Gary Hannig, Secretary, Illinois Department of Transportation: Thank you for your letter (Reference No. H-08-2) to the Governor's Office regarding the safety recommendation for West Grand Avenue in Elmwood Park. The Governor has asked that we respond. As previously stated in your recommendation memorandum, the Illinois Department of Transportation performed a feasibility study in 2007, to evaluate if grade separation was a viable solution to address the safety concerns for this at-grade crossing. The study evaluated fourteen alternates, and three of them were determined to be feasible alternatives by the department, the Illinois Commerce Commission, the citizens of Elmwood Park and the Metra. These feasible alternates include: 1. Grand Avenue Lowered under the Metra Railroad - Grand Avenue would be lowered under all three railroad tracks, and the tracks would remain at grade and be realigned to the south (Total Estimate Cost: $81 million); 2. Grand Avenue Raised over the Metra Railroad - Grand Avenue would pass over the existing Metra Railraod tracks with no adjustments needed to the existing alignments, profiles and the train station. (Total Estimated Cost: $44 million); or 3. Grand Avenue Lowered under Metra Railroad and Metra Railroad Raised Grand Avenue - Grand Avenue would pass under all three railroad tracks, and the tracks would be elevated approximately nine feet above existing profile. The railroad track would need to be realigned to the south (Total Estimated Cost: $92 million). The department received responses from Elmwood Park and from the North Central Council of Mayors in support of the Grand Avenue lowered under the Metra Railroad alternate. The department is committed to the safety and well being of residents and the traveling public. We will be adding this project to our list of warranted but unfunded projects. With the city of Elmwood Park's concurrence, we will look for opportunities to fund this improvement in our future highway improvement programs. Thank you for your interest in the Illinois transportation system. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Diane M. O'Keefe, Deputy Director of Highways, Region One Engineer, located at 201 West Center Court, Schaumburg, Illinois 60196, or telephone her at (847) 705-4110.