CHICAGO (CBS) — Gates closing, but no trains; months of false alarms at railroad crossings in Lockport have been causing quite a headache for drivers, but a fix might finally be in the works.
Illinois state Sen. Mike Hastings met with city leaders, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and Canadian National Railway in Springfield to find a solution.
Those false alarms, or “ghost signals” as city officials called them, seem to be happening more and more often, especially at the 9th Street crossing in Lockport.
For months, drivers in Lockport have been dealing with railroad crossing gates that have been dropping, and warning lights that have been flashing, even when there’s no train coming.
Lockport city administrator Ben Benson said it has happened about 30 times in the last 30 days.
Benson said the city’s hands are tied when it comes to repairs.
“The city can’t do any of the work. The rail line, CN, does all the work on the rail,” he said.
So Lockport Mayor Steven Streit took to Facebook to encourage people to report the ghost alarms directly to Canadian National. The problem has happened most often at the busy 9th Street crossing, causing major traffic backups.
“We’ve had experiences from anything five to eight minutes, to 30 minutes to an hour,” Benson said.
Those who work nearby witness the frustration on a regular basis.
“It’s backed up all the way down the street each direction; a lot of honking, a lot of upset people,” said Alex Leal.
Diane De Cero said, if you get stuck on the 9th Street bridge when the gates are down, you could be there for up to an hour.
CN crews have been trying to determine the cause of the false alarms, but at the meeting in Springfield told city officials the likely culprit is a mixture of water from melting snow and road salt creating a weak current that could be prompting the ghost signals.
That means a fix could require raising the tracks above street level to avoid water from snow melt.
Lockport plans to install a camera at the 9th Street crossing this week, to help CN track the false alarms.