Suburban mayors rally against railroad merger that they say will increase freight traffic
ITASCA, Ill. - Leaders from at least eight suburbs are working together to try to derail a major railroad merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern.
The proposed merger would create the only single-line railway linking Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. While it would connect customers to new markets and potentially spur economic growth, many suburban leaders say the risks outweigh the reward.
On Monday, the Coalition to Stop CPKC – which consists of local leaders, mayors, suburban administrators, and fire and police chiefs – voiced their concerns to the Surface Transportation Board’s Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA).
Coalition members say if approved, the merger will bring massive freight trains rumbling through their towns at a frequency that would disrupt the lives of their residents.
The mayors of Bartlett, Bensenville, Elgin, Itasca, Hanover Park, Roselle, Wood Dale and Schaumburg say the merger will lead to a 300-percent increase in freight traffic on Metra’s Milwaukee West line, adding that some trains could be three miles long.
"It’s reported that the frequency could increase from three times a day to eight and as many as 14 times a day," said Mayor Jeff Pruyn of Itasca. "In Itasca, one of these longer freight trains could block all four of our at grade crossings at one time."
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Many residents also want to see this proposal come to a halt.
"This can’t go through. It’s going to put a lot of people’s lives in jeopardy, especially those who need medical assistance or police assistance," said Bob Tomaso, who lives in Bartlett.
During Monday’s meeting, dozens of people shared their concerns, including the negative environmental impact of the merger, noise, and traffic backups.
"Most days, our communities see two freight trains. If approved, we could see 14 freight trains daily running through our communities in just three years," said Carrie Anne Ergo, Itasca village administrator.
For many, the biggest problem would be the risk that first responders could be stuck at a crossing and unable to get to an emergency.
"My concern is the ability of our first responders to respond to the life threatening emergencies our residents experience on a daily basis," said Chief Greg Vesta of the Wood Dale Police Department. "When precious seconds count in saving a life or confronting a threat to our residents, the minutes waiting for the trains to pass feel like hours for our officers."
The Surface Transportation Board will ultimately decide if the proposed $31 billion railroad merger moves forward.
A decision could still be months away. Public responses to the proposal are due by Oct. 14, then the Surface Transportation Board will review all submitted comments. A spokesman for the board tells FOX 32 Chicago that a decision might be made at some point this winter.