Railroad merger approved despite strong opposition from Chicago suburbs over safety concerns

John Garcia Image
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Railroad merger approved despite suburbs' safety concerns
The Surface Transportation Board gave the green light to a Canadian Pacific Kansas City Southern railroad merger Wednesday.

ITASCA, Ill. (WLS) -- Federal regulators have given the green light to a railroad merger that could bring more freight trains through the Chicago area.

A coalition of western suburban towns has been fighting the proposed merger of the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads over safety concerns and other issues.

They lost that fight, however, when the Surface Transportation Board in Washington D.C. approved the merger. The merger will create a continuous line from Mexico to Canada, much to the disappointment of local government officials.

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"We are disappointed and dumbfounded at the decision today," Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn said.

"The STB might be better named the Hasty Transportation Board," said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-8th District. "They didn't just sign off on this merger, they rubber stamped it."

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The decision was published in a nearly 200-page report which touts the economic benefits of the merger for the U.S. economy.

"Today economics was chosen over safety," Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers said. "We will continue to fight for the 300,000 residents in the communities we represent."

The merger also promises seven years of continued oversight by the board monitoring issues, including preventing potential merger-caused delays and service disruptions of commuter service in the Chicago area.

"I'm comfortable assuring all the first responders that if they can demonstrate the problems, we will do everything under the sun to solve the problem," said Martin Oberman, a former Metra board chairman who is now a chairman on the Surface Transportation Board.

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Vivant Med Spa sits just a few feet away from the train tracks, which could soon get a bit more traffic and cause longer delays at the crossing in front of the spa. Owner Jamie DeFilippis is worried not only about her customers having access, but her family.

"I have children in the school district, and two of the schools are across the street on the south side, and I reside on the north side," DeFilippis said. "God forbid there's an emergency. How long will it take to get to the other side of the tracks?"

Itasca's fire chief says a train could add up to 14 minutes response time when seconds matter.

"Our concern is for the family who's house is on fire and our response is delayed by a freight train," Itasca Fire Chief Jack Schneidwind said.

Metra has also opposed the merger. The company issued a statement saying they remain concerned about how the merger will impact it's operations. They are counting on the newly merged railroad to live up to its commitments.

The suburban coalition is vowing to continue fighting the Surface Transportation Board's decision. Right now they say they are looking at their options including calling for congressional hearings.