A coalition of eight communities along Metra’s Milwaukee District West line, from Elgin to Chicago, is uniting to staunchly oppose the proposed merger of Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern Railroad pending before the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Washington, D.C. The “Coalition to Stop CPKC” was announced at a press conference on February 22, 2022, at the Village of Itasca by community leaders and supporters, including area first responders.
Back in October of 2021, CPKC filed a merger application with the Federal Surface Transportation Board—otherwise known as the STB—to create the only single-line rail network linking the U.S.—from Canada to Mexico. The $31B merger would traverse right through the heart of the eight communities of Bartlett, Bensenville, Elgin, Itasca, Hanover Park, Roselle, Wood Dale, and Schaumburg.
The communities’ first conversation with CP was in December. Since then, the group has been scrambling to analyze the magnitude of the impact. In total, the eight communities represent more than 300,000 residents and collectively have more than 50 at-grade crossings.
“We are deeply concerned about the risks to the health and safety of our residents, businesses, and natural resources if freight traffic on this rail line increases by 300% in three years, and this estimate could be low,” said Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn. “Increasing the number of freight trains, and especially increasing the length of those trains, will cause extensive gridlock—blocking first responders—and reduce property values in our communities. One freight train can block all five of our grade crossings at once!”
The Coalition has been created through an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA). Members of the Coalition share a common interest to protect their respective units of government. In accordance with the IGA, the Coalition will do everything it can to prevent the merger from occurring as proposed. While communities in the Coalition have shared interests, each has concerns about the specific impact on their community.
“In Elgin, the costs are astronomical for mitigating the negative impacts of an increase in freight train presence on the Milwaukee District West line due to the infrastructure that will be required to accommodate the increase,” said Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain.
First responders will be severely impacted. “Increased freight rail traffic will pose a significant safety risk,” according to Wood Dale Mayor Nunzio Pulice. “This will have a lethal impact on victims of traffic accidents, emergency medical incidents, criminal activity, and other emergencies by delaying Police, Fire, and EMS response times.”
“We have potentially one of the most dangerous crossings on the entire Chicagoland rail system,” said Roselle Mayor David Pileski. “The massive, planned increase in freight traffic cannot occur without substantial mitigation measures for protection. It is unthinkable that our crossing could become more dangerous.”
The CP and KC provide rail service for various industries, including agriculture, minerals, military, automotive, chemical and petroleum, energy, industrial, and consumer products, according to the application filed with the STB. “When the daily carloads of hazardous material increases pursuant to CPKC’s plan, the risk of potential accidents—with disastrous consequences— is increased, particularly due to the line running adjacent to residential areas and nearby schools,” said Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig.
In addition to significantly increasing train traffic, CPKC projects an increase in intermodal truck traffic in Bensenville from 383 trucks per day to 698 trucks per day by 2027. “There must be a careful balancing of the broader public interest when it comes to a railroad merger, especially one that could severely negatively impact public safety in each of our communities,” said Bensenville President Frank DeSimone.
As the merger relates to economic development, the Village of Bartlett will take a significant hit. “For years, our Village has worked to bring Transit Oriented Development for the benefit of commuters, residents, and businesses,” said Bartlett Trustee Aaron Reinke. “We centered our development around the ease of commuting on Metra, and this merger will have a severe impact on our hard work.”
In Schaumburg, one area of concern is protecting the environment. “As the railroad tracks pass through some pretty intense wetlands, not only in Schaumburg but also on the Roselle side and other communities along the rail spur, we expect a thorough Environmental Impact Study will be undertaken to determine any ecological and natural resource impact that might be caused by the increased rail traffic this merger will cause,” said Schaumberg President Tom Dailly.
On February 28, 2022, the Coalition will be submitting their opening comments on the merger application to the STB
Coalition to Stop CPKC Website