“… we have no intention of being enslaved by railroads”

Railroad rumble
Freight traffic would soar in some places and drop in others if Canadian National deal OKd
By Richard Wronski Tribune Reporter
September 14, 2008

The Canadian National Railway Co.’s plan to reroute freight train traffic through Chicago’s outlying suburbs has generated a locomotive-size controversy.

Opponents say the plan raises concerns about safety, traffic and pollution, while CN and experts say diverting freight trains around Chicago’s congested rail corridor will benefit business and the economy.

Thousands of residents have turned out at Chicago-area hearings to voice concerns about CN’s $300 million plan to acquire the lightly used Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway and transform it into what has been described as a rail superhighway.

Freight traffic could quadruple in some communities but significantly decrease in others. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board is expected to rule on the sale as early as December.

Here’s a look at some who favor the deal or oppose it—and why.

IF THE DEAL IS APPROVED, HERE’S WHO WOULD LOSE …

Frankfort

Freight trains would increase from six to 28 a day along the EJ&E tracks that cut through Frankfort. Marc Steinman, whose home is about 100 feet from the tracks, says: “Taking a transportation-related problem and moving it from one area to another doesn’t solve it. It just moves it.”

Barrington School District 220 

The district’s 9,200 students from kindergarten to 12th grade ride buses that cross the EJ&E tracks 376 times a day, said Supt. Tom Leonard. “It’s going to make traffic in town very difficult, and obviously it’s going to make traffic for kids who are on buses very problematic,” Leonard said.

Oak Terrace subdivision

The 160-home subdivision borders the EJ&E tracks and Illinois Highway 83 near Mundelein in unincorporated Lake County. Residents such as Cindy Murray complain that motorists use residential streets to avoid the crossing at Illinois 83 when freight trains block traffic. “I see more accidents, more injuries [happening],” Murray said.

West Chicago

The city, originally known as Junction, is reputed to be the first Illinois community created as the result of railroads. Under the CN plan, trains on the EJ&E line through town will increase from about 10 to more than 31 a day. “West Chicago is a railroad town, but we have no intention of being enslaved by railroads,” Mayor Mike Kwasman said.

TRAC Coalition

“All of us need to keep the pressure on the [transportation board],” said Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, co-chairman of the Regional Answer to Canadian National, a coalition of suburban leaders from Lake, Cook, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Will Counties, and northwest Indiana opposed to the CN deal.

Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, Barrington

The additional train traffic in the Barrington area will delay ambulances, hospital officials say. Medical Director Joseph Giangrasso said: “It’s very simple: If you cannot get the patient to the hospital that could conduct their treatment, the patient will suffer. In emergency medicine, that usually means they die.”

 

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