Transportation board eyes Bartlett derailment

Federal regulators are monitoring the recent derailment of a Canadian National Railway train in Bartlett and “will determine an appropriate course of action,” once reports on the accident are completed.

Twenty-two CN train cars derailed early in the morning of Nov. 3, snarling traffic, delaying Elgin Area School District U-46 buses and disrupting the commutes of about 11,000 Metra riders.

The train cars — including some carrying chemicals — toppled over on a stretch of CN track once belonging to the EJ&E Railway. CN bought the smaller railroad following a controversial acquisition process with many towns along the EJ&E opposing the merger.

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board approved the purchase because they agreed with CN’s argument it would ease freight congestion overall in the region. But regulators sympathized with concerns about traffic and safety raised by residents and put the railroad on a five-year oversight period.

Following the derailment, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin wrote the STB asking officials to look into whether CN was properly maintaining the tracks.

The agency responded Thursday, saying it was working with the Federal Railroad Administration in reviewing the causes of the derailment and had asked CN for detailed information.

“I am glad they have chosen to exercise that authority today,” Durbin said Friday.

CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said in a statement that the railroad is “fully cooperating” with the investigation, and officials are preparing a response to the STB’s inquiries into the Nov. 3 accident.

Since acquiring the EJ&E, CN has spent about $30 million on rail, ties, ballast and related materials to upgrade the property, and roughly $18 million on mitigation-related expenses, which Waldron says are aimed at “safe and efficient performance on the EJ&E.”

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