Northwest suburban residents, leaders say railroad merger plans would 'end life the way we know it'

Metra has told the STB its schedules will be disrupted and riders inconvenienced.

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Monday, July 25, 2022
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Residents of Bensenville, Itasca and Naperville, IL are protesting Canadian Pacific railroad merger plans they said would increase traffic and noise.

BENSENVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- These tracks may take on three times the amount of freight traffic in addition to commuter traffic if this merger goes through. It has people worried much about noise pollution and the provision of emergency services.

"One train could be as long as 12,000 feet or more than two miles long," said U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi. "That could potentially block every single intersection in one town, which means we would have traffic jams throughout the suburbs."

Northwest suburban leaders appeared united behind a letter sent Monday to the Surface Transportation Board in Washington, D.C. from the congressman, House colleagues and both Illinois senators denouncing expected increased traffic on Canadian Pacific-controlled tracks in the region.

"They don't maintain them... The wheels, properly, on a freight train... Like we do on the commuter line," said Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig. "Noise is going to be a problem? Yeah, it's going to be a super problem."

Metra has told the STB its schedules will be disrupted and riders inconvenienced. The 30 or so miles of track will take on increased goods flow to the Bensenville Intermodal facility on the south side of O'Hare Airport. Opponents said it nearly doubles truck traffic there, in addition to the rail snarls expected in communities such as Itasca.

Where miles-long trains would likely separate its northern residential areas from the only firehouse on the south side of the tracks, creating a need for a new station.

"We only have four to six minutes to get to somebody if they are having a heart attack or if they were having a fire," said Itasca Fire Department Chief Jack Schneidwind. "We want to get there as quickly as possible. If we are delayed by a train for up to 10 or 12 or 15 minutes, it certainly will impact our delivery."

Canadian Pacific said the merger will help it create an economically significant continent-spanning railway, leading to prosperity from Mexico, through the American heartland and up to Canada. They have offered affected local communities here $10 million to mitigate its effects.

"$1 million wouldn't cover it the cost of construction of the facility get alone staffing it into the future," said Village of Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn. "It would be like living on a runway at O'Hare."

Metra riders, fewer in number since the pandemic, worry about the merger.

"It makes me scared," said Metra commuter Joanne Cain. "Again it scares me... Because it is going to end life the way we know it and we have been spoiled and God bless us, but we don't need to have someone infringe upon our happy life here."

Paula Barwcz of Naperville also weighed in.

"It has to go from point A to point B at someplace, so unfortunately if you live here, you're going to say, 'Oh no, not here.'"

The politicians are asking the Surface Transportation Board, which is chaired by a former head of Metra, to conduct public hearings later this summer before approving the merger, which could happen soon after.

"These companies are attempting to railroad merger through Washington, so now is the time to speak up and make sure their concerns are heard right now," said Krishnamoorthi.