Railroads have played an important role in the history of Elmhurst and were responsible for initial settlement in and around the city. However, as the population increased, so did traffic—both railroad and vehicular traffic—bringing with it the problems of vehicle vs. train incidents.
Elmhurst suffered 3 fatal collisions involving trains over a 12-month period in 1992 -1993, followed by a 2-week period in August of 1994 when the Chicago metropolitan area had 14 deaths from railroad-involved collisions. After hearing news coverage of these incidents, Elmhurst Police began enforcing violations of railroad warning gates at the thirteen railroad crossings in town, mainly in the downtown area where pedestrians were frequently observed violating the warning bells and lights.
A comprehensive education and enforcement program was designed and implemented in an attempt to prevent railroad-involved collisions. City departments, including the Police and Fire Departments and Public Works, worked together on the project to mount orange cones in City street crossings to prevent vehicles from going around lowered gates, create and post warning signs and safety flyers for distribution around town, and to produce public service videos that aired on cable stations.
Upon the implementation of these safety initiatives in Elmhurst, several Elmhurst officers became involved in the DuPage County Railroad Safety Council and brought Operation Lifesaver, a national program aimed at preventing railroad collisions, to Elmhurst.
Elmhurst continues to work on educating the community about the dangers associated with railroad tracks. All Elmhurst Police and Fire Department employees are now trained in the Operation Lifesaver program, and, since 1994, Elmhurst has had only two fatal collisions involving trains. Since its inception, the program has spread to other cities in Illinois and eventually to other parts of the country. More recently, it has spread oversees and is being taught in a number of foreign countries at this time