Not 'accurate,' 'not complete': Durbin, other elected leaders want further railway merger review
Federal lawmakers are asking the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to dive deeper into the regional impacts of a proposed merger between the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railways.
A draft environmental statement prepared by STB analysts concluding the merger would have a negligible impact "raises more questions than it answers," Sen. Dick Durbin said at a news conference Tuesday outside Schaumburg village hall.
"We're worried," the Springfield Democrat said. "I don't believe what they produced is accurate and it's certainly not complete.
Ideally, that means the agency would conduct a "supplemental" review focused on the city and suburbs, Durbin and U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said.
"The STB makes its decision soon in a matter of a few months," Durbin said, adding a formal request would be made to the STB. "We don't believe they have all the information they need. They've got to take a look at the Chicagoland area and the economic and environmental impact of this merger on this area."
CP estimates an average of eight more freight trains will be added to the metro area daily compared to three now.
That data is disputed by Metra, whose Milwaukee District Line trains would be affected, and eight communities that estimate 15 more freights will be rumbling through the suburbs, said Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat.
"We need to be honest about the impact on Metra," he said, noting that more freights will cause devastating delays for commuter trains and riders.
Asked about the supplemental request, CP officials cited President Keith Creel's statements at a STB hearing that began Sept. 28 and continues this week.
"We recognize that there will be some modest local environmental impacts from the new freight traffic we anticipate being attracted to our network. This is the kind of change that comes with the broader public benefits of creating new and better transportation alternatives," Kreel testified.
The railroad has "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," Creel said.
A coalition that contains DuPage County plus Bartlett, Bensenville, Elgin, Hanover Park, Itasca, Roselle, Wood Dale, and Schaumburg is fighting the merger, arguing that trains will block crossings, snarl traffic and delay first responders.
Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly said he shared "concerns that public safety will be threatened, freight train traffic will increase dramatically and the environmental health will suffer."
Durbin described the STB as "historically the lap dog of the freight railroad industry. But things have changed with new leadership and new leaders on the board who are starting to ask the hard questions," he said, citing Chairman Martin Oberman, a former Chicago alderman and Metra chairman.
Asked to comment on the prospect of a supplemental environmental impact study, agency spokesman Michael Booth said everything is still preliminary.
"Every filed comment will be taken into account before it's final," Booth said. "While the environmental process and the proceedings are ongoing, we can't directly comment on any proposals, but we can assure the senator and representative that their views will be given careful consideration."