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Congressman Lipinski talks Metra, canal issues for new constituency

By Janice Hoppe

My Suburban Life

Local transportation issues — along the Heritage Corridor Metra Line and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal — will be the key targets for Congressman Dan Lipinski in his new 3rd Congressional District, which now includes Lemont.

Lipinski, re-elected to the new 3rd District in November, met with the editorial staff of the Lemont Reporter/Met Jan. 18 to discuss local issues and his new constituency.

As a senior member of the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Lipinski spoke at length about efforts to expand Metra service — only three Metra trains run in the morning and three run in the evening, with no weekend service, along the Heritage Corridor Line.

“I now represent every stop on the Heritage Corridor Line and it has been a big issue,” Lipinski said. “The Heritage Corridor has the least amount of service of any Metra line.”

Earlier this month, Lipinski and newly appointed Metra Board Chairman Brad O’Halloran signed a letter urging Canadian National to allow Metra to expand its service on the line, which runs between Joliet and Chicago’s Union Station stopping in Lockport, Lemont, Willow Springs and Summit.

However, Canadian National maintains it cannot add Metra trains on the line unless federal funding can be secured for infrastructure upgrades to the railway, according to CN Spokesperson Patrick Waldron.

Canadian National — which owns and manages the line — claims $150 million worth of infrastructure upgrades are needed to add trains, Lipinski said. But he’s not buying it.

“I think there are other things that can be done,” he said during the hour-long meeting. “There are not hundreds of millions of dollars anyone has to pay for infrastructure improvements on the Heritage Corridor.

“Now we are the point in the next couple of weeks where it’s a matter of me putting pressure on CN to allow more trains.”

From the rails to the water, Lipinski said he has also been keeping his eye on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal as the Asian Carp threatens to close the waterway.

The Asian Carp, a bottom-feeder fish that can grow to 100 pounds and eats 40 percent of its body weight, poses a threat to the closure of the locks on the canal.

“There are a lot more businesses along the canal than most know about,” Lipinski said.

Lipinski also spoke of research and grant opportunities for Argonne National Laboratory in Darien.

Lipinski is a member of the Committee on Science and Technology and holds a master’s degree in engineering from Stanford University.

“There is tremendous opportunity, even more than has been realized,” Lipinski said of Argonne. “We need to promote more research going on in the labs.”

In November, Lipinski announced Argonne was chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy as an Energy Innovation Hub devoted to developing new battery technology for transportation.

One month later, Lipinski announced Argonne, in partnership with the University of Chicago, received a $600,000 federal grant for a new research effort that will help decision-makers in urban areas better understand the impact of different policies in their communities.

Finally, Lipinski discussed his desire to be accessible to his new constituents. To do so, he is hosting a grand opening for his office in Lockport today. Lipinski added that he will look to have a mobile office that will bounce from one community to another, with the goal of having staff in Lemont one day per week.

“All I can do is reach out to all these new areas so they know who I am and what is available to them,” Lipinski said.

Lipinski’s new district office
Where: Central Square, 222 E. 9th St. in Lockport

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Grand Opening: 11 a.m. Jan. 25