The Canadian National Railway fought back against accusations from Illinois' senior senator that the railroad was ignoring communities and safety with its takeover of a smaller railroad and expansion into the suburbs.
"CN has an unwavering commitment to safety," railroad CEO Claude Mongeau wrote Sen. Dick Durbin Monday. "Safety is embedded in our culture and aligned with our business interests. We cannot provide service or run a fluid network if we are not the safest possible railroad."
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Durbin took CN to task in a letter last week to Mongeau.
In 2008, the Surface Transportation Board approved CN's request to buy the smaller EJ&E Railroad, which extended in a half-circle from Waukegan to Joliet. Suburbs traversed by the EJ&E fought the plan, citing extra freight train traffic. The board imposed numerous conditions on CN as a result and included a period of federal oversight until January 2015.
"It may be prudent to extend this period while the problems outlined above remain," Durbin stated.
He cited problems with lengthy delays at rail crossings in towns such as Aurora and Barrington that are concerned about the safety of trains carrying oil and ethanol.
Mongeau said that levels of freight traffic are below projections and that extreme winter weather in early 2014 was responsible for many of the long delays at crossings.
"We will continue our efforts to contain crossing delays," Mongeau said.
Durbin, a Springfield Democrat. also said CN has thwarted Amtrak expansion in Illinois by dragging its heels on sharing tracks for a route from Chicago to Rockford to Galena.
Mongeau responded that CN was cooperating fully with IDOT and Amtrak.