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Article posted: 3/17/2013 12:35 AM

Darch, Kozel debate Barrington's railroad fight

By Eric Peterson

Barrington's nearly five-year legal fight with Canadian National over the need to mitigate increased freight train traffic through the village is one of the points of contention between Village President Karen Darch and her write-in challenger Mike Kozel.

Kozel said he believes a less confrontational approach with CN would have made the company more willing to pay for mitigations other communities like Lake Zurich, Aurora and Joliet are receiving.

"I feel we've been a little misled as a community ... that stopping the train was ever a possibility," Kozel said. "Everybody's getting something, and we're still fighting this fight."

But Darch said it was only Barrington's early recognition of the potential impacts of CN's proposed purchase of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern railroad that made the company so proactive about offering deals to other communities that would face their own, usually lesser impacts.

"This is something that had to be done, and I'm glad we did it," Darch said.

The village is still very much in the game to receive financial assistance from CN for the construction of a $69 million underpass beneath the CN tracks on Northwest Highway, she said.

Short of the purchase of the EJ&E being stopped -- which would have required CN's competitors making an issue of its effect on competition -- getting funding for the underpass from CN is still the best possible outcome the village could have ever hoped for, Darch said.

Kozel said the $2 million the village has spent so far on its legal fight may have been to the detriment of its regular road and infrastructure maintenance.

Darch disagrees with Kozel on this for two reasons. Not only are the village's legal efforts in aim of making affordable a necessary infrastructure improvement of the future, she said, but they have already yielded a $3.2 million grant for a phase I study for the underpass.

"We've already received more money than we've spent," Darch said.

While Kozel said he doesn't advocate dropping the village's lawsuit automatically and potentially squandering the money that's been spent so far, he wants the village to explore whether heightened negotiations with CN might be able to settle the matter.

Darch said relations between the village and CN are not as strained or nasty as Kozel seems to believe. But she said the company has a fiduciary duty to its stockholders not to spend more money than it has to and naturally is going to object to the village's request and lawsuit.

The question of whether CN is still on the hook at all for more funding is alive only because the village's legal efforts have brought the matter under the scrutiny of the Surface Transportation Board, Darch said.

"(Kozel's) speaking as a person looking at it from the outside," Darch said. "I'm living it. The stakes are still high. A pretty good outcome is still possible."

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