'These companies need to go back to the drawing board': Lawmakers join opposition to rail merger
The suburban campaign to stop a proposed merger of two major railroads that could more than triple freight train traffic through local towns has added the backing of federal lawmakers from Illinois.
U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said he and Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, along with Rep. Marie Newman, sent a letter Monday expressing their opposition to the proposed Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern merger to the chairman of the Surface Transportation Board.
That federal agency will approve or deny the $31 billion merger that would create the only continuous railroad system running from Mexico to Canada.
If approved, the merger would cause problems for suburban towns, according to local leaders. Some formed the Coalition to Stop CPKC, a group of eight suburbs along Metra's Milwaukee District West Line.
On Monday, Krishnamoorthi joined suburban officials from Bartlett, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Itasca and DuPage and Cook counties at a news conference at the Metra station in Hanover Park.
"Simply put, this merger as currently proposed is not acceptable," he said. "These companies need to go back to the drawing board."
Krishnamoorthi said the number and length of the trains would lead to traffic problems for residents and emergency responders, pedestrian safety issues, adverse environmental impacts and Metra delays.
"We have not seen anything like this on these particular tracks," Krishnamoorthi said. "The length of each train can be 12,000 feet, which is more than two miles long. It could block every intersection simultaneously."
Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn said many residents don't realize the impact the merger could have on them.
"It's going to affect their daily lives because, if nothing else, it's going to affect traffic," he said. "But it's also going to affect the provision of public safety."
In a statement, Canadian Pacific says it has made a "significant proposal to the suburban coalition based on the modest changes proposed to the commuter and freight rail corridor" and that the coalition has asked for up to $9.5 billion, which CP says is "widely out of proportion."
"Still, CP remains prepared to continue our discussions with suburban communities," the statement reads. "CP has successfully worked with other communities anticipating freight train traffic increases to address their concerns, including reaching agreement with suburban Hampshire. We continue to work in similar fashion with a number of communities."
The STB has announced that it will conduct a three-day public hearing on Sept. 28-30 at its Washington, D.C., headquarters. An environmental review by their Office of Environmental Analysis is also underway.
Until then, Krishnamoorthi urged residents to continue voicing their concerns to elected officials and the STB.
"I'm just very concerned about the notion of this merger getting railroaded through the Surface Transportation Board," he said. "We need to carefully consider the impact and deal with it right now. I think we need to take this very seriously."