River Forest officials on March 9 moved one step closer to solving the noise problem along the Union Pacific and Metra train lines when the village board approved an intergovernmental agreement with Metra.

Under the agreement, which was approved unanimously by the five trustees present, Metra will fund installation of sound mitigation material on the new fence that was installed along the third track of the Union Pacific West Line, which is adjacent to residential properties. Trustee Patty Henek was absent.

Officials indicated they expect Metra to approve the agreement, at which time the soundproofing material will be purchased and installed by River Forest Public Works employees along the fence, which runs approximately 1,000 feet from the Des Plaines River to Edgewood Place. No timetable has been established, but installation is expected this spring.

In a memo to the board, Village Administrator Eric Palm said the material, which is made by Acoustiblok, is expected to reduce the noise generated by the wheels of rail cars. Metra will reimburse the village of the purchase of the material in an amount not to exceed $60,000. 

Florida-based Acoustiblok has submitted an estimate of $56,192 for the project, of which $52,772 is for the cost of the soundproofing material. According to the company website, the Acoustiblok material is a 1/8-inch thick viscoelastic polymer that weighs one pound per square foot. It is made in the United States from recycled plastics and non-toxic materials mixed and pressed into a membrane sheet.  

Under the agreement, the village will maintain soundproof barrier going forward. Palm said he anticipates the costs for installation and maintenance to be minimal. Essentially, the material is attached to the fence through industrial grade zip ties, he added.

Metra officials are installing the soundproofing material as a pilot program. They will conduct sound studies after installation to evaluate the effectiveness of the material and consider it for future use in other projects. 

Concerns over noise from Metra’s third-rail project that had been expressed by residents were addressed following a lengthy and heated negotiation process involving the village, Union Pacific and Metra.

Village officials credited the involvement of state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-4th) in addressing concerns over noise and safety stemming from the project, which was completed last year. 

In addition to concerns over noise, residents had expressed concerns regarding safety. Union Pacific had originally agreed to put up a security fence that would have been 8 feet tall in some parts and 4 feet tall in others but agreed to install a fence that is 8 feet tall for the full length of the property behind residents’ homes. 

The chain-link fence will also include locking gates at the entry point to a planned access road. Union Pacific will submit plans for the access road, which will be permanent, to the village for approval before any construction begins. Palm said those negotiations are continuing.

The village of River Forest matched Union Pacific’s contribution of $2,500 to replace the trees and shrubbery destroyed during construction of the third rail, so there is $5,000 available for planting after the project is complete.

Finally, the village is looking into the installation of additional security cameras in the area, either through a collaboration with Metra or Union Pacific.

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