Suburban mayors concerned and disappointed after federal regulators approve railroad merger

The first major railroad merger in more than two decades, one that would link the United States, Canada and Mexico, has been approved by federal regulators.

The news was a big disappointment for Chicago-area mayors who have been fighting against the merger for months. They knew it was going to be an uphill battle and, while they are disappointed, they are not surprised.

In Itasca, residents are expecting traffic to get a whole lot worse. Freight trains are expected to go from three or four a day in the area to at least 11 trains.

"My house value is going to be decreased," said Gokhan Cukurova, who lives in Itasca close to the tracks. "How many people are going to try to come buy a house over here with air pollution, noise pollution, traffic is unacceptable?"

Local city leaders in DuPage County have been fighting the merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads, and they say they will continue to fight.

Federal regulators said the proposal was properly vetted and will create the only single-line railway linking Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.


"The merger of these two railroads will benefit the American economy and will be an improvement for all citizens in terms of safety and the environment," said Chairman of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board Martin Oberman on Wednesday.

The Coalition to Stop CPKC says the National Surface Transportation Board just approved a 400 percent increase in freight rail traffic in communities. Metra is also opposing the merger and says it remains concerned about the potential impact it will have on its operations.

"It’s going to block traffic, it’s going to cause delays on the commuter trains, but really the second issue more important to me is that the fire station is right over there and I live over there," said Jim Morikuni, another Metra commuter.

MORE: Could a train derailment happen here? Suburban officials say longer trains would make it likely

The trains are expected to be two-miles long and some will be carrying hazardous materials through densely populated areas. There is also a concern for derailments and environmental disasters, similar to the one that occurred last month in Ohio.

"Eleven-thousand additional cars of hazardous materials will course through the Chicago suburbs, 50-percent are flammable," said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi.

This would greatly increase the time spent responding to emergencies across the tracks.

"A run that would simply be a minute 20 seconds from our house with no train blocking, if we took an alternative route, it would take 14 minutes to arrive on that scene. In 14 minutes — that's three times amount of brain cells that would be dead, resuscitation would be nearly impossible. A house fire would double in size," said Itasca Fire District Chief Jack Schneidwind.

The Coalition to Stop CPKC says their fight is not over yet.