'We have to make our case': Bartlett, Hanover Park, Schaumburg and Elgin share concerns on freight train merger
Bartlett, Hanover Park and Schaumburg are joining a broader coalition of suburbs including Elgin to seek relief from a pending merger of freight companies that would increase the frequency and length of trains along the Milwaukee West Line through their communities.
The number of freight trains along the line could increase from three to 11 per day, and be as long as 1.9 miles each, if the Surface Transportation Board approves Canadian Pacific Railway's acquisition of the Kansas City Southern Railroad.
The coalition members are considering a memorandum formalizing a financial commitment to their efforts, but it does not yet specify how costs of attorneys and consultants would be divided.
"We're focused on mitigation," Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig said. "We're not going to try to stop the merger."
Other coalition members include Roselle, Itasca, Wood Dale and Bensenville.
Bartlett Village Administrator Paula Schumacher said the potential impacts to her community may be greater than Schaumburg's and Hanover Park's, but are probably in the middle among coalition members. Generally speaking, the closer to Chicago a community is, the greater its impacts from the merger are likely to be, she added.
Bartlett has a few at-grade road crossings with the affected rail line, and nearby homes could hear and feel the vibrations of heavy freight trains, Schumacher said.
The frequency of road blockages might not be as great as what Bartlett officials feared along the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern railroad; the village's experience there gives Schumacher confidence that appropriate mitigations may be attainable. While Bartlett succeeded in establishing a quiet zone for the rail crossing at Spaulding Road, train engineers retain the right to sound their horns if they believe it necessary, Schumacher said.
Schaumburg Transportation Director Karyn Robles said that because Metra's commuter trains have priority on the tracks during the day, the expected increase in freight traffic could be pushed into the night and make noise the biggest impact.
Schaumburg's impacts are considered relatively minor among the coalition communities, consisting of one road crossing at Rodenburg Road and three pedestrian crossings at the Metra station.
Craig said Hanover Park's rail crossings already are separated from the roadways, but that Schaumburg's potential impacts from the merger are so low that it's basically being a good neighbor by joining the coalition.
A pending proposal by Alsip-based Experior Transport to move its trucking headquarters to a 55-acre site just north of the railroad hasn't been affected by the merger application, Schaumburg officials said. An existing restriction would prevent truck traffic from that site from proceeding south on Rodenburg Road toward the train tracks.
Craig believes the most important mitigation affected communities will ask for are grade separations that cut down on both the ground vibrations from the freight trains and the possibility of emergency vehicles becoming stuck at crossings.
"I don't see it as an uphill battle," Craig said. "The (Surface Transportation Board) is holding hearings. We have to make our case. The railroads want to work with us as long as we're not crazy about it."