Residents to protest freight railway plan in suburbs

July 23, 2008 4:43:03 PM PDT
A railway plan could spark heated debate at a community meeting Wednesday night in Aurora. The Canadian railway wants to acquire some suburban rail lines so it can run freight trains through the suburbs and avoid rail congestion In Chicago.

Officials from Aurora and Plainfield say the purpose of the meeting is to alert citizens about the proposed Canadian National Railroad acquisition. They have put down more than $300 million to acquire parts of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railroad train lines. They are looking to buy 198 miles of track that runs in a southwestern loop around Chicago from Waukegan to Gary, Indiana. Many believe it would quadruple the number of trains crossing in Illinois.

"Now it is busy enough. We simply can't allow the number of crossings that will take place with additional trains because it could be as many as 40 crossings," said Mayor Jim Waldorf, village of Plainfield.

"It will impact our community negatively in regards to delays on our roads," said Darlene Senger, Naperville City Council.

CNR officials say they are committed to the acquisition, which will relieve serious rail congestion and bring significant economic and environmental benefits to the Chicago region.

But the plan has created a lot of opposition. Several communities fear it will create traffic problems in the train crossings. One of the questions is, who will pay the billions of dollars needed to upgrade more than 100 crossings, including building overpasses, walls and upgrading safety equipment? Canadian National has proposed contributing $40 million to the crossing project.

"Some of the overpasses and underpasses are singly between $35 and 50 million. It has to come from somewhere," said Senger.

"It is going to be horrendous for the subdivisions and for traffic," said Peggy Abhalter, Naperville resident.

"I think it will disrupt traffic and cause a tremendous impact on the neighborhood. Our whole neighborhood is completely against the idea," said Paul Weber, Aurora resident.

"I think it is needed," said Mary O'Donnell, Naperville resident.


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