Metra warns railway merger would exacerbate unsafe conditions for commuters
Metra officials warn that delays and potential hazards for Milwaukee District West passengers can only get worse if a proposed merger between the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railways is approved.
The commuter rail's prediction at a news conference Wednesday came as the U.S. Surface Transportation Board considers CP's proposal to acquire KCS, after public hearings that ended Oct. 7.
Metra, DuPage County and a consortium of Bartlett, Bensenville, Elgin, Hanover Park, Itasca, Roselle, Schaumburg and Wood Dale oppose the merger, citing delays to first responders, crossing blockages that snarl traffic, and environmental and economic concerns.
Wednesday at Union Station, Metra Chief Operating Officer Kevin McCann listed concerns about passenger safety that stem from CP's dispatching rights over the tracks.
"Too frequently, CP sends its freight trains on Metra tracks when and where passenger trains are scheduled to pick up and drop off commuters. This delays commuters and often creates an unsafe condition," McCann said.
Passengers have described freight trains blocking their ability to reach trains or "how they get off Metra trains only to be stuck on the platform waiting for an idle train to move so they can get to their cars and their families," he said.
"One individual posted a video of crawling under an idle freight train so he could simply get to his Metra train and get to work."
CP officials have disputed claims about excessive delays, and officials previously told the Daily Herald that "we have approached concerns about the (merger's) impacts with seriousness and willingness to work toward reasonable solutions since the start, and we remain committed to that process."
Opponents to the deal including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi have asked the STB to conduct a separate environmental review on the impact of the merger specifically on the Chicago area. Other options are requiring CP to fund grade separations, officials said Wednesday.
CP has estimated that eight more freight trains would be added daily, on top of three currently, as a result of the acquisition. Metra projects it could be 18 in total.
"I can see hundreds of thousands of people who would otherwise take Metra, instead preferring to drive downtown, clogging our roads, causing a detrimental environmental impact and setting public transit back by decades in our region," said Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat.
The deal would create a massive railroad stretching from Canada to Mexico, which CP says would create jobs and reduce shipping problems.
The STB has conducted a draft environmental impact statement on the whole deal and is expected to reach a conclusion this winter.
"Not only will Metra's on-time performance suffer, but gridlock will jam streets and the health and safety of our residents will be negatively impacted," Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig said.