Metra: North Central line won’t reopen until Wednesday

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By Peter Nickeas and Richard Wronski Tribune reporters

Metra’s North Central line won’t reopen until Wednesday as crews continue to clear and repair tracks after a freight car derailed just after midnight today near Mundelein.

Canadian National isn’t expected to complete the work along the single track until early this evening. Metra said it decided not to run any trains through the area today. The North Central line logs about 5,800 passenger trips a day.

A set of wheels on a hopper car of a 110-car Canadian National freight train derailed near Winchester Road in Mundelein shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday, according to railroad officials and police. The car was carrying plastic pellets.

“The derailment happened on a portion of the line that is single track,” said CN spokesman Patrick Waldron. “That’s what the issue is. Other trains can’t get around the car.”

The derailment prevented Metra from getting any of its six inbound morning trains out of the Antioch yard to run south of Mundelein to Union Station in Chicago. The agency advised customers to take Milwaukee District North and West line trains or Union Pacific Northwest line trains as options.

The cause was under investigation, according to Mundelein Police Cmdr. Fred Kliore.

The derailment has affected rail crossings in Mundelein and Libertyville. Traffic was being diverted from the crossing at U.S. 45 (Lake Street) and Dunbar Road. In Libertyville, U.S. 45 and Winchester Road were affected.

Kliore said that, with all Mundelein schools closed today because of the weather, there is “very, very little” traffic in that area.

Metra reported no other major problems on its lines today, though there were some delays, and CTA trains were operating on schedule. Area expressways were generally clear, though some lanes of Interstate 88 in Aurora remained closed from an overnight accident that killed a tollway worker and Interstate 57 was closed in the south suburbs because of icy patches.

Metra had delays on at least five lines beyond the North Central — Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Metra Electric District, Rock Island District, SouthWest Service and Union Pacific North — this morning, according to Metra’s website. Delays ranged from 5 to more than 30 minutes, with switch, electrical and equipment problems causing the delays. At least one train was cancelled on the SouthWest Service because of mechanical problems.

“We’ve had delays but mostly in that 10-minute range, which we were predicting, with the exception of the North Central line,” said Metra¬†spokeswoman Meg Reile.

A Metra Electric train was delayed for about 30 minutes. That train was caught behind a South Shore Line train that developed a problem with the overhead wire that provides power, she said.

“We had extra crews on the Electric District because in this type of weather, the overhead wires can contract and have issues making contact,” she said.

Metra had warned riders to expect minor delays Tuesday caused by slower train speeds and longer boarding times. The subzero temperatures have been forcing Metra to slow operating speeds, which means trains could be running from 10 to 15 minutes late.

The CTA expected to run a normal service schedule Tuesday after experiencing a handful of minor train delays and no weather-related bus delays Monday, agency spokesman Brian Steele said.

According to the Chicago Aviation Authority, about 520 flights have been cancelled today at O’Hare International Airport, with about 105 cancelled at Midway International Airport. O’Hare experienced delays of up to 15 minutes.

On the roads, northbound Interstate Highway 57 between Sauk Trail and U.S. Hwy. 30 was shut down from about 7:30 a.m. to 8:50 a.m. because of “at least six crashes,” said Illinois State Police District Chicago Master Sgt. Jason LoCoco. None of the injuries was life threatening.

The crashes started happening about 6:45 a.m., LoCoco said, and were caused by ice on that two-lane stretch of road, he said.

Other problem areas with icy roads in District Chicago’s Cook County area included the Bishop Ford Freeway between 159th and 130th streets, especially the steel bridge area, and both directions on I-55, from Cicero Avenue to California Avenue or Pulaski Road, he said.

“We’re getting a handle on it,” Lococo said.

Tribune reporter Rosemary Regina Sobol contributed.

Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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