Barrington emergency responders video propels underpass need

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

Vehicle traffic was blocked on Route 14, with video footage showing the timeline caption. (Photo courtesy of the Village of Barrington)

An online video that vividly depicts the inability of Barrington emergency first responders to reach an accident scene or hospital destination, when all four Canadian National Railway crossings in the municipality are blocked by freight trains, is adding weight to the Route 14 underpass project. All four crossings are within a 5,918-foot distance, and the average CN train has been gauged at 7,500-10,000 feet in length.

Using actual video dashcam footage and audio from radio traffic, the video follows a chronological timeline of police and emergency crews responding to a two-car accident with injuries at 4:41 p.m. June 12, 2018. A CN train was stopped from mechanical failure, blocking all four crossings, and hampering transport by two ambulances to a local hospital for 56 minutes. CN dispatchers were completely unaware of the breakdown.

Increased freight train traffic has exacerbated a problem, which Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler has been unsuccessful in getting CN to acknowledge. Vehicle and train traffic issues have forced Lake County to construct underpasses on Washington Street in Grayslake, and Rollins Road at Route 83. The latter now includes seven stoplights within a 1.25-mile stretch.

An aerial view of a CN railway crossing on Route 14 in Barrington. (Photo courtesy of the Village of Barrington)

“There’s nothing   … a negative response to our needs, basically lip service. They are not a very good neighbor. The Federal Surface Transportation Board allowed CN to acquire the EJ&E rail lines, a short railroad with low traffic that turned into a Class I railroad with high volume traffic,” he said. “They have not held them accountable from the very beginning, and it’s a real imposition on all the towns they pass through.”

The video, available for viewing at, was edited together by internet technology personnel at the Barrington Police Department and contains some graphic content of the two-car accident scene. It also shows the long lines of vehicles halted on the thoroughfares, as emergency responders attempt to navigate for access.

“Our fire department chief, James Arie, has said that every minute of delay in a cardiac arrest situation is a 10 percent reduction in being able to save a life,” said Greg Summers, the village’s Director of Development Services. “According to the police report, we had two ambulances that had to go around Lake Zurich to reach the hospital. The video is about 14 minutes and people tell us that watching it changed their perspective. They understood.”

Since a January 2014 public hearing, attended by nearly 500 people, the proposal involving a trenched underpass on Route 14, and Lake Zurich Road being moved to coincide with the Berry Road traffic signal was preferred. The Phase I portion of engineering has been completed.

“Phase II is land acquisition and the Illinois Department of Transportation is active … they’ve just completed the demolition of five properties that back up to Route 14,” said Summers. “The grant money is a combination of federal surface transportation board funds, and the state matches that amount. The state is in process for demolition of a sixth home, and a seventh, an Elm Road property owner, has approached us to have the state tender an offer.

“Full construction funding is not in place yet and is an unknown. There will be eight homes acquired on Elm Road, and two commercial properties. The full acquisitions include partials like corner clips, backyard clips, and smaller pieces,” he said. “Phase III is the actual construction with federal, regional sources, and the state for the right package of funding that will hopefully be announced later this year. It will also show how the partners will come together.”

Video dashcam footage showing the Canadian National Railway train blocking one of the four Barrington crossings June 12, 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Village of Barrington)

Summers also said for emergency responders and public safety personnel, if a crossing cannot be made, Barrington has entered into agreements with other municipalities.

The vehicle traffic concerns had their beginnings in 2010, and the Illinois Department of Transportation committed an initial $4 million toward the underpass project for the land acquisition proper, leaving the estimated overall cost for rights-of-way, the Lake Zurich Road relocation, and the underpass construction at approximately $62 million.

Records indicate the Lake Zurich Road relocation project alone is fully funded at $5.4 million, and the village’s contribution is expected to be $348,700. The cost analysis has 80 percent of the money from the U.S. Surface Transportation Program, 10 percent from the state of Illinois, and the remaining 10 percent from the village.

When the federal government allowed the CN Railway to purchase and lease track lines within its borders, opponents argued that the increased train flux would instigate vehicle traffic delays on roads with crossings and safety issues through the smaller cities and county locations.

“That has happened,” said Summers.

Requests for comment from Canadian National were not returned.