"The other day, William C. Thompson, a project manager for the Association of American Railroads, stood next to a crossroads of steel in the Englewood neighborhood pointing to a web of tracks used by freight trains and Amtrak passenger trains that intersected tracks for Metra, Chicago's commuter rail. The commuter trains get to go first, he said, and so 'Amtrak tells me they have more delays here than anywhere else in the system.'
"More delays than anywhere else in the Chicago area? No, he said. 'In the entire United States.'"
I think I found the intersection we're talking about (above). It's the X right there in the middle, where the dark tracks spanning two big rail yards meet those two dusty tracks of the Rock Island Metra line, coming down from Union Station. Looks pretty harmless, but I'm no Mr. Conductor, who I imagine would have some choice words for this setup. It's hoped that a new structure built with a $140 million federal grant will reduce traffic and bump the average speed of a freight train in Chicago above 4 mph.
You can't do better than to follow up with Whet Moser on the bottleneck of Chicago freight trains. And hey, Chicago's got other busy train intersections: Tower 18 in the Loop, the northwest corner where the Brown, Purple, Pink, and Green lines exit, may be the busiest junction in the world. That's working out real well.