Feds send O'Hare bypass feud between tollway, railroad to mediators

Federal regulators want a mediator to resolve a feud between the Illinois tollway and Canadian Pacific Railroad over property near Bensenville sought for a new road around the western side of O'Hare International Airport.

To build I-490, the tollway is seeking to construct bridges over CP tracks and acquire a portion of its rail yard, but the railroad objects.

Members of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which got involved after negotiations faltered, asked both sides to respond by June 15 whether they will accept mediation.

Railroad officials argue CP can't give up "critical and irreplaceable" property it needs for freight trains. Construction would shut down the mainline track for the equivalent of nearly two weeks, disrupting interstate operations, CP contends.

The railroad "has been, and continues to be, ready to work with the tollway to try to reach an agreement that achieves the tollway's goals and also meets the needs of our business, the Chicago terminal and the North American freight rail network," Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs Martin Cej said.

The tollway blames the railroad for breaking off negotiations.

"The tollway hopes to reach a timely and fair solution that will benefit our customers, O'Hare airport and northern Illinois," spokesman Dan Rozek said. He added the road had been deemed a project of national significance by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The western bypass would connect to Route 390 in the center, plus I-90 near Des Plaines and I-294 in Franklin Park.

The argument revolves around the tollway's rights to condemn property versus constitutional protections for interstate commerce and has drawn the attention of Illinois' congressional delegation.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg urged both sides to "find a mutually beneficial solution, so the Chicago region can take advantage of this opportunity to create jobs, jump-start our economy and alleviate congestion."

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