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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Illinois senators call on STB to reconsider Barrington grade separation; CN says decision shouldn't be reexamined


On Monday, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) sent a letter to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) regarding the village of Barrington’s petition seeking additional mitigation efforts from CN following its acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Co. (EJ&E).
In May, the village commissioned a study regarding the impact of CN’s increased use of the EJ&E line, which found that the STB's previous study “contained several flaws in the methodology and provided results that diluted actual traffic congestion and traffic delay impacts,” Durbin and Kirk said in a joint statement.
“The village’s more comprehensive study found traffic delays significantly higher than the board’s original study, especially at the U.S. Route 14 crossing,” they said. “The new study found CN rail traffic will increase delays at U.S. Route 14 by over 1,000 percent.”
Durbin and Kirk are encouraging STB members to use oversight jurisdiction of the EJ&E transaction to examine the village’s new study and reconsider a grade separation in Barrington.

However, CN would be responsible for at least 84 percent of a grade separation’s cost, according to the Class I. On Nov. 3, CN filed a reply with the STB that responded to the village’s petition seeking a reopening of the board’s December 2008 decision approving the EJ&E acquisition and the construction of the grade separation. The Class I also filed another reply, including a response to the village’s rebuttal, on Dec. 5.

In approving the transaction, the STB imposed 182 environmental mitigation conditions, including “tailored mitigation” to address traffic concerns in Barrington, CN officials wrote in their filings. The STB also denied the village’s request to require CN to fund grade separations in Barrington, and the village did not file a timely petition for reconsideration of the STB’s decision, they wrote.

Moreover, the recent Barrington-commissioned study is merely a brief snapshot of the Class I’s continuing post-acquisition implementation of the transaction that provides no basis for inferring that the board’s projections materially underestimated traffic delays in the municipality, CN officials claim. The STB applied the same multiple criteria in analyzing the transaction’s traffic impacts at grade crossings in Barrington as it did for all other crossings in communities along the EJ&E arc, CN officials said in a statement issued via email.

“CN disagrees that the Barrington study is based on any new discoveries or that it establishes any material error whatsoever in the STB's analysis,” they said, adding that percentage increases of traffic delays cited in the study are not new and can be misleading when starting from a small base.

Since there is no showing of a material error, “there is no basis to impose on CN an obligation for a separation in Barrington long after the transaction has been consummated,” CN officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/7/2011