Barrington still after Canadian National underpass funding
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Barrington Village President Karen Darch says her community is continuing its search for funding to build a road underpass at the Canadian National Railway tracks, despite a recent defeat in its legal efforts to require CN to foot part of the bill.
"It's still critical to have a grade separation, and we're working on it," Darch said.
Barrington experienced two potential setbacks this year in its efforts to mitigate the impact of increased freight train traffic on the former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Ry. tracks, which CN purchased in early 2009.
In February, the U.S. House threatened to cut $2.8 million in federal funding that Barrington already had been awarded for the engineering of an underpass where the CN tracks intersect U.S. Route 14.
Darch said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin told her such a cut would be unprecedented, and so far all parties have been proceeding as if Barrington already has the money.
The total construction cost for the proposed underpass is estimated at about $69 million, the sources of which have not yet been identified.
Having won the grant to design the underpass was an important first step toward getting further assistance, Darch said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals dealt the village a second blow in March when it upheld a ruling ordering CN to pay large shares of the cost of underpasses in Aurora and Lynwood, but gave nothing to Barrington.
The courts reasoned that the funding was needed in Aurora and Lynwood because of higher traffic volumes there.
When those underpasses are built, Barrington will have a new argument to bolster its case, Darch believes.
"Route 14 will be the only federal highway to cross the EJ&E at grade in the region," she said.
Darch hopes that will be enough to justify further federal funding.
She also believes the recent rulings in the Aurora and Lynwood cases demonstrate that the courts believe CN is responsible for the effects it is causing.
Barrington and a coalition of other suburbs first sued the federal Surface Transportation Board after its approval of the EJ&E sale. The communities argued that the board approved the sale despite flaws in its assessment of environmental and public safety effects.
Since the $300 million purchase of the EJ&E first was proposed, Barrington-area officials have argued that the length and frequency of freight trains along the line would regularly cut off one side of the village from the other. They also said it would prevent ambulances, fire engines and squad cars from quickly getting around the crossings.
Even before the ruling on the Aurora and Lynwood underpasses, CN had agreed to spend about $60 million on other mitigation along the railroad line, including in Hoffman Estates.
The Lynwood and Aurora ruling, which CN officials say they won't appeal further, requires CN to pay 67 percent of the cost of the Aurora underpass at Ogden Avenue and 78.5 percent of the Lynwood underpass at Lincoln Highway.
The Surface Transportation Board estimated the two projects would cost CN about $68 million. But CN officials said the Illinois Department of Transportation hasn't yet provided an accurate cost estimate for either project.
Preliminary IDOT estimates put the Aurora project at $84.8 million and the Lynwood underpass at about $90 million.
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