Krishnamoorthi asks feds for new study of train merger that would include suburban crossings

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has formally asked federal regulators to conduct a Chicago area-specific review of a massive railway merger proposal.

Without a localized study, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board "risks overlooking serious adverse impacts" by the Canadian Pacific Railway's potential acquisition of the Kansas City Southern Railway, the Schaumburg Democrat says.

But will the supplemental environmental impact statement be authorized? The merger territory stretches from Canada to Mexico, and typically the STB does just one environmental impact analysis per project.

Krishnamoorthi has partnered with Sen. Dick Durbin to lobby the STB to expand its study.

Canadian Pacific is expected to object to the second evaluation, which could significantly delay the deal.

In a Friday letter to the STB, Krishnamoorthi warned a draft environmental impact statement disregards a quadrupling of freight trains posed by the merger that will block crossings, delay Metra and hamstring first responders.

Towns such as Itasca already have freight trains holding up crossings for 14 minutes, slowing police, firefighters and paramedics, Krishnamoorthi said.

"These drastic delays put people's lives and homes at risk," he wrote. "But the draft EIS only considered 28 grade crossings across the entire country, none of which are in Illinois.

"Between Elgin and Bensenville alone, there are 54 crossings over approximately 20 miles of track, which emergency responders frequently use."

Canadian Pacific leaders have stressed the economic and logistical benefits of a railroad that stretches across North America, saying it's crucial amid supply chain dysfunction.

"We recognize that there will be some modest local environmental impacts from the new freight traffic we anticipate being attracted to our network," Canadian Pacific CEO Keith Creel testified before the STB on Sept. 28. "This is the kind of change that comes with the broader public benefits of creating new and better transportation alternatives.

"We have been very proactive in reaching out to communities to support reasonable steps to address the local concerns about the nation's commerce flowing closer to their homes."

DuPage County plus Bartlett, Bensenville, Elgin, Hanover Park, Itasca, Roselle, Schaumburg and Wood Dale also oppose the merger.

The public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement ended Friday, and a final report and a board vote is expected this winter.

If the STB authorizes a Chicago-area study, it would be set a precedent and raise questions about the board's independence, Railway Age magazine experts predicted.

"I seriously doubt if the STB would allow it," Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono said.

Contributing Editor Frank Wilner noted in a commentary that "the board would have to hold the evidentiary record open for an unspecified period - and perhaps subject to court challenge - to accommodate the Durbin-Krishnamoorthi request for a separate environmental study that arguably could take months, wreak financial havoc on the applicant railroads and scuttle the merger if financing is withdrawn."

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