Railroad crossing closes on Brainard Avenue

Major inconvenience caused for students and commuters

Scarlett Lestina, Managing Editor

One of the first chilly days of autumn turned sour as Hannah Voigt ‘23 had to make her daily commute to school from her friend’s parking spot even longer starting on Oct. 6. Due to the Brainard railroad crossing being closed to all traffic, pedestrians included, students, like Voigt, who park across the tracks had to extend their walks to school to accommodate the closure. 

“I was really frustrated with the closing of the [railroad] crossing because I felt like there must have been an easier way to get the construction done,” Voigt said. 

Spanning from Oct. 6 to Oct. 16, the crossing was shut down for civilian use, as there was scheduled construction to update the railroad tracks and surrounding road as it had become worn down, Peter Skosey, Executive Director for Public and Government Affairs and BNSF Railway said. The construction needed to be completed before the winter months as the freeze/thaw cycle could potentially cause an emergency repair.

To compensate for the closure of the crossing, community members brought up the idea of having a pedestrian crossing equipped with safety personnel, La Grange Village President Mark Kuchler said. 

This suggestion was refuted as running a pedestrian-only crossing would be just as much work as having a normal crossing available, Skosey said. It was instead safer to close down the Brainard Avenue crossing completely and have Kensington Avenue serve as a detour during the construction. 

“I do not believe [BNSF has] taken into account the safety of the students at all,” Kuchler said. “The railroad does what the railroad wants to do.”

The construction was set to be completed in July, as it would be less of an inconvenience for students, Skosey said. However, due to an asphalt strike over the summer, the construction was pushed to October to overlap a four-day weekend–Oct. 7 to Oct. 10.–as dictated by LTHS administration who were in contact with BNSF. There were no injuries over the course of the construction; BNSF supplied the crossing with safety personnel to ensure the safety of students, commuters, and the community, as well as putting up numerous detour and construction signs. 

During the period of time the community was notified of the closure to when it actually happened, BNSF received numerous complaints from the Village, as well as concerned community members and parents, Skosey said. 

“I was angry that they [did the construction] in the middle of the school year,” concerned parent Glenn Thompson said. “It should have been done during the summer.”

Thompson was one of the worried parents who filed a complaint with the Public Service Commision (PSC), as well as posting about the issue on a LTHS parent social media website, he said. This gained support from concerned parents as the PSC refused to move the construction to the summer of 2023 or allow a pedestrian crossing.

The upset community members pointed out the plan for Brainard Avenue to get torn up next summer to put in a new water pipe and asked why the construction couldn’t wait, Kuchler said. This was a frequent rebuttal used when the community members and BNSF personnel communicated. 

While the crossing was closed to traffic, commuters were still able to board the train at Stone Avenue, Kuchler said. However, going to Chicago, the train boards on the South side of the tracks and gets off on the North, causing the commuters to walk down to either Gilbert Road or Kensington Avenue to cross back to their home side of the tracks. Kuchler was one of the commuters affected by the closure of the crossway.

“[It was] quite inconvenient,” Kuchler said.

The crossing opened back up on the morning of Oct. 17, allowing pedestrian and automobile traffic to resume as normal.