Rail line is committed to dialogue with communities about facts of merger

  • Andy Cummings

    Andy Cummings

 
By Andy Cummings
Guest columnist
Posted3/8/2022 1:00 AM

From the beginning, the Canadian Pacific team has worked to provide community leaders of Bensenville, Wood Dale, Itasca, Roselle, Schaumburg, Hanover Park, Bartlett and Elgin with accurate information regarding our proposed merger with Kansas City Southern. This historic proposal joining two railroads stretching across North America will provide economic, environmental and public benefits to the Chicago area and beyond.

We recognize this combination will mean increased numbers of freight trains operating on the rail line running from Elgin to Bensenville and that many residents may have questions about what that means. However, in recent days, sensational claims have been made suggesting that a change in freight traffic will bring "immeasurable, collective harm" to suburbs on this rail corridor some assert was "not constructed to accommodate freight rail traffic on the levels projected."

 

In fact, this double-tracked mainline railroad corridor has been carrying freight and commuter traffic for 150 years and these proposed changes do not represent a radical shift in its use. Consider some key facts and figures:

• 41 trains: CP's current operations on the route commonly referred to as the Metra Milwaukee District West include about three freight trains per day. Today, Metra's MDW schedule has 38 trains a day between Elgin and Bensenville.

• 61 trains: Before the pandemic, the full MDW schedule had 58 trains per day on it, with the corridor hosting another three freight trains.

• 64 trains: In 2007, the route handled about six freight trains a day (twice today's freight train count) as well as 58 scheduled MDW commuter trains.

• 10 freight trains: Railroad historian Art Danz documents 10 daily freight trains over the line as recently as the 1980s and more at midcentury.

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As these numbers demonstrate, the additional traffic that would come from the merger falls squarely within the line's historic use. And through most communities, the freight trains will operate nonstop at normal track speeds, passing through nearly all road crossings in about 3 minutes or less. That adds up to about 24 minutes per day, or one minute per hour, of added gate-down times.

In exchange for these extra minutes, the Canadian Pacific Kansas City would provide key public benefits. These include efficient transportation options for our economy, more trucks off our congested public highways in the Chicago area and Illinois, lower emissions and improved economic growth.

Despite these facts, a coalition of suburban communities is seeking mitigation more than twice the size of the CREATE program, a $4.6 billion initiative of 70 projects on four rail corridors to better handle the 1,200 freight and passenger trains (pre-pandemic) operating in the Chicago region.

America relies on freight trains. Nearly everything we own, or any product we use -- from our homes to our meals -- needs rail to get to us. Freight trains create 75 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than trucks, and one train can take 300 trucks off publicly maintained highways. Fewer trucks means less congestion, less maintenance, less pollution and improved safety on the roads for everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

CP is proud to have been the safest railroad in North America for 16 straight years, and much has been made about movement of hazardous materials through the suburbs, including misleading statements about increased oil shipments. The corridor is not a route for oil trains today, nor will it be post-merger. Most of the new train traffic will be intermodal and merchandise traffic.

Chicagoland is the largest freight rail hub on the continent, and for decades, suburbs have thrived beside rail lines that handle higher numbers of freight and passenger trains. The railroad and the communities matured together and our railroaders lived -- and still live -- in these communities.

CP continues to listen to community concerns and talk to community leaders about reasonable solutions. We firmly believe this collaborative process will yield the best possible outcome and we look forward to an ongoing dialogue rooted in facts and respect.

• Andy Cummings is community relations manager at CP and a member of the railroad's team working directly with suburban leaders.

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