U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn last week lauded a decision by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to extend CN's due date to pay a portion of the engineering and construction costs for two grade separations associated with its Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway (EJ&E) acquisition.
In its original EJ&E decision, the STB required CN to pay those costs for grade separations in Lynwood and Aurora, Ill., but only if construction began on the projects by 2015's end. In a decision rendered on May 30, the board extended the deadline by two years to 2017's end. The extension encourages all parties to pursue alternative dispute resolution, if needed, STB members said in the decision.
"We encourage and commend the parties for the steps they have taken to date. However, the parties' filings demonstrate that difficult issues related to these two important projects remain unresolved," they said. "Although we believe that the parties are in the best position to resolve the matters still in dispute, the new information provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation [IDOT] and CN shows that negotiations may require additional time."
CN is required to cover 78.5 percent of the Lynwood grade separation's cost and 67 percent of the Aurora grade separation's cost, which are estimated to total $68 million, said Durbin in a press release. The STB decision ensures that CN "pays their fair share" for the projects and "does not evade its responsibility to fund these mitigation efforts due to time deadlines," he said.
"I commend the STB and IDOT for holding CN accountable to Illinois communities. Now it's time to move this project forward and build these grade separations," said Durbin.
However, CN "respectfully disagrees" with Durbin's characterization of the company's efforts and responsibilities regarding its EJ&E-related mitigation measures, CN officials said in an email.
"CN has been working closely with IDOT since 2009 to meet the 2015 deadline and is making good progress toward meeting the starting date for the grade separation projects in Aurora and Lynwood," they said. "With two and a half years remaining, CN saw no need for an extension. CN will continue its efforts to resolve outstanding issues in a timely manner."
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