Daily Video

June 19, 2009

Where to Lay the Tracks?

The Chicago metro area has more than 1,900 grade crossings, where regular roads cross train tracks, the most of any city in America. With the average train travelling at only nine miles an hour, this can mean a lot of waiting for drivers.

In order to avoid the bottleneck inside Chicago and its suburbs, one railroad company, Canadian National, has plans to re-route traffic away from the tangle of freight lines that converge there.

Barrington, a community that will be affected by the change in trains, is not happy. Many of Barrington’s citizens worry that basic services would be cut off from their constituents while others worry that taxpayers are bearing the burden of paying for new train infrastructure for a private company.

Now both sides have lawsuits about the situation pending in a Washington, D.C., court of appeals.


“Many times you have to plan your life around the trains.” Katherine Worthen, South Holland citizen

“If we increase the rail traffic, which backs up the car traffic, that means people won’t come from the surrounding communities…They’ll go the other direction to buy things. We won’t have the businesses here. You don’t have a downtown area.” Jerry Connors, Barrington citizen

“It’s roughly 1 million people along the EJ&E line that will have increased train traffic. It’s about 4 million people in the city of Chicago, in the inner-arc communities that will have less train traffic.” Karen Phillips, Canadian National vice president

Warm Up Questions

1. Name all the forms of transportation that you can.

2. What is the most used form of transport to move goods around the United States?

Discussion Questions

1. Who do you think is right in the fight between the village of Barrington and Canadian National? Should communities have to pay for train infrastructure? Why or why not?

2. What is the most fair and equitable way to plan train routes around the country? How would you implement it?

3. Why do you think Chicago has so many trains going through it? What does its geography tell you about its role in domestic distribution?

4. Research your local train routes. How do they affect your life or the lives of people who live around them?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

Blueprint America: PBS Reports on the Infrastructure Crisis

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