The Impact of Freight Congestion on the Chicago Area Commute

Investigate specific freight impacts:

  • Freight train interference to Metra commuter trains.
  • Congested rail yards.
  • Blocked rail-highway grade crossings, delaying auto commuters, transit and school buses, and emergency vehicles.
  • Increased truck traffic due to global trade, increased intermodal containers and just-in-time transportation.
  • Decentralization of distribution facilities further from Chicago, such as the intermodal rail yards in Rochelle and Joliet.

Principal Investigator(s):

Joseph DiJohn


Joseph DiJohn




 Identify the impacts of rail and motor carrier freight activity on the Chicago region commute and recommend policy actions to mitigate rail and highway congestion.


Undertake research into the factors that cause congestion in the Chicago metropolitan area, which is the second most congested in the United States when measured in travel time. Identify the business and social costs of congestion, estimated to be roughly $11 billion annually in terms of delay, excess fuel costs, productivity, environmental, unreliability, and cargo delays.

Expected Results or Products:

The research will assist decision-makers to develop policies to deal with increased congestion due to freight. Some end products are:

  • Presentation to the IDOT Planning Conference in September 2007 in Rockford.
  • Interview on “News Views” in November 2007 on Channel 7 ABC television.
  • Guest editorial “Late to Work: Blame Freight and Trucks” in Crain’s Chicago Business, January 2008.
  • Paper and presentation to the Transportation Research Forum Annual Meeting in Fort Worth, March 2008.
  • Tool to evaluate and support projects, such as the Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program, designed to reduce rail congestion.


Download the report


P.S. Sriraj
Urban Transportation Center
University of Illinois at Chicago
412 South Peoria Street, Suite 340
Chicago, IL 60607
Voice: (312) 996-4713
Fax: (312) 413-0006


Illinois Department of Transportation
Metropolitan Transportation Support Initiative (METSI)

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