railroad crossing 176975 640SPRINGFIELD – About 15 times a day, east-west traffic in Litchfield shuts down. Two parallel rail lines carry thousands of tons of freight through the city every day and if one of those trains has to stop, it cuts the city in half.

A series of BNSF upgrades in the area will cut down on the number of trains that have to stop in Litchfield and will reduce rail traffic through the city. State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Mayor Steven Dougherty worked with rail companies to address the problems caused by rail traffic.

“There’s a huge difference between the disruption caused by a train passing through and a train that stops. These improvements will cut down on the daily frustration caused by train stoppages,” Manar said.

“This has been an on-going problem for many years in Litchfield. Attempts to address it include the previous administration’s efforts to obtain grants for automated switching , as well as studies on the feasibility of construction of an overpass/underpass. Realizing our responsibility to our industrial and commercial properties to the west, as well as the need to service I-55, we maintain a satellite fire and rescue facility on that side of the rail lines. This results in the need to support two facilities,” Dougherty said.

BNSF is installing centralized traffic control to regulate rail traffic in the region. Currently, train crews need to stop and manually switch tracks. The CTC system will allow trains to switch tracks without stopping.

A new rail interchange in Smithboro opened this January and another is planned to open this summer. Both interchanges will route rail traffic around Litchfield.

BNSF is also working on reconfiguring a low-speed crossing just south of Litchfield. This will allow trains to pass through the city quicker and cut down on drivers’ wait time at rail crossings.

“Senator Manar’s attention to this situation has been instrumental in helping our community solve this problem of trains slowing to a crawl or stopping during the switching process. With the increase in the number of trains and volatile cargo, it is critical that access is available to all of our citizens in time of need,” Dougherty said.

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