A year after CP/KC merger approved, mayors see train uptick and brace for more

One year into a hotly contested railroad merger, suburban leaders report lengthy and more frequent freight trains, and they’re preparing for a future deluge.

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board approved Canadian Pacific’s $31 billion acquisition of Kansas City Southern on March 15, 2023, creating the first rail system stretching from Canada to Mexico.

“I don’t think it’s a doomsday scenario right now,” Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers said. But, “there are more trains.”

And a 32-minute blocked crossing that snarled traffic in late December doesn’t augur well, he noted.

“Thank God, we didn’t have an emergency during that blockage. We wouldn’t have been able to get to the emergency,” Summers said.

Over the next few years, CPKC will add eight more trains daily compared with an average of three before the merger in the region. The railroad introduced a pair of trains last spring between Chicago and Mexico.

That means a daily average of 4.6 trains between Bensenville and Elgin, or about 32 a week, in contrast with 21 pre-merger.

“One year into our combination, the new CPKC network is doing what we said it would do,” spokesman Patrick Waldron said. “It’s improving safety, enhancing competition, providing customers with new service options, enabling investments, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and driving economic growth across North America.”

Some towns are turning to infrastructure to counter the extra freights, such as a grade separation in downtown Bensenville. But at $70 million, it’s a formidable cost.

The Itasca Fire District has moved some equipment north of the tracks to the village public works garage and is planning a permanent station to handle calls when CPKC freights block crossings.

“We’re going to be proactive and take care of the problem head-on before it becomes a problem,” Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn said.

But infrastructure won’t stop an eruption of train horns, Pruyn and Elgin Mayor David Kaptain reported.

The Coalition to Stop CPKC — comprising Bartlett, Bensenville, DuPage County, Elgin, Itasca, Hanover Park, Roselle, Wood Dale and Schaumburg — has appealed the STB’s ruling in federal court. Metra also opposed the merger, arguing it would delay commuters and cause safety issues.

Since September, Bensenville has reported 85 blocked crossings of more than 10 minutes. The coalition also noted that CPKC ran five freights trains longer than 10,000 feet in the western suburbs one week last October.

CPKC, however, said the median length for trains has decreased since the merger, citing an average of 7,041 feet before and 5,965 after.

Elgin’s Kaptain has seen an incremental spike in trains and blocked crossings.

“I do notice the traffic gets backed up at 6:30 or 6 a.m. when people are starting to go to work,” he said.

The STB imposed a seven-year monitoring period on CPKC and ordered the railroad to appoint a community liaison.

But there have been disconnects over a blocked-crossing alert system and hazardous materials training for firefighters and police, coalition officials said.

“The relationship has been contentious — we don’t want the trains here and they obviously need the trains here,” Summers said.

One more thing

In 2008, the STB approved another controversial railway merger between CN and the EJ&E. CN was mandated to provide information about train numbers and crossing delays and that data was easily available online.

The STB also ordered CPKC to report train numbers and lengths. The railroad has — but accessing it requires digging into STB records, downloading spreadsheets and knowing highly specific railroad facts, such as what is Tower B-17.

  Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers says the town has seen increased freight train traffic since the CPKC merger was approved. Brian Hill/
  Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn talks about the impact that a merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads would have on his community during a news conference in 2023. To his left is Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig and to his right is U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi. Rick West/

You should know

Young riders are invited to enter Metra’s annual Safety Competition now through April 1. Depending on age, students K-12 can submit a poster, video or social media post illustrating the theme: “Become a Safety Influencer.” Prizes of up to $500 will be awarded. For information, go to

Gridlock alert

Lake County drivers should expect lane closures on Belvidere Road (Route 120) over the Des Plaines River now through late fall. IDOT crews are replacing pavement on bridges in Gurnee and Warren Township.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.