CN foes claim progress in fight against EJ&E buy
Who will prevail in what's shaping up to be a battle between several local towns and an international railway company?
Only time well tell.
But for now, residents, elected officials and members of two groups in opposition against Canadian National Railway Co.'s, or CN's, $300 million pending purchase of the Elgin Joliet & Eastern railway, are celebrating an early victory.
CN has agreed to a study that will measure the environmental impact its purchase could have on surrounding communities, Barrington Mayor Karen Darch announced Sunday during the first of many local rallies against the acquisition.
Darch heads up Barrington Communities Against CN Rail Congestion, which includes North and South Barrington, Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, Barrington Township, Cuba Township, Town Lakes and Deer Park.
She also is co-president of The Regional Answer to Canadian National, or TRAC, which represents dozens of communities, including Aurora, Naperville, Lake Zurich and Griffith, Ind.
A draft of the study, expected to be released at the end of the summer, would accompany hearings and at least 45 days of comments from the community, Darch said.
Afterward, the three-member U.S. Surface Transportation Board would either approve or reject the deal.
Darch thanked Congresswoman Melissa Bean and Congressman Dan Manzullo for their help with this endeavor while calling on them and their colleagues to update obsolete railway laws.
She also urged residents to storm the hearings and flood CN representatives with comments, just like they did earlier this year when 2,500 showed up for initial hearings and 3,000 mailed their comments in.
"I think we should try to overwhelm them again," she said.
More than 200 people attended Sunday's rally.
Right now, five trains measuring 6,000 feet cross through Barrington each day, Darch said. These trains cause about two minutes of down time when traveling at normal track speed, which is 40 mph, said CN spokesman Jim Kvedaras.
And within the next three years, CN proposes to add 15 more trains; Their length is expected to range between 5,500 to 7,000 feet, said Kvedaras.
The EJ&E runs in an arc around Chicago from Waukegan to Gary, Ind. CN plans to use those lines as a bypass for freight traffic around Chicago.
Railroad officials say their purchase will help relieve rail congestion. They also say it will bring economic and environmental benefits to the Chicago area, which will preserve it as one of the major transportation hubs in the country.
But residents are concerned increased freight train traffic would drive businesses out of town and prevent the sick from getting to the hospital in a timely fashion.
They also worry about increased fatalities involving children and a raised noise level.
"Even if it's not in your backyard, you hear it," said Barrington resident Julie Andrews.
Many locals say CN is moving full speed ahead with its plan to the detriment of the community.
But Kvedaras says the railway is in constant communication with all the parties involved.
"CN remains committed to working with communities along the EJ&E Railway to find reasonable solutions that balance everyone's needs," he said in a statement. "Initial meetings with every community willing to participate have been completed, and we are in second and third-round meetings with several communities."