Every few seconds, trucks pulling shipping containers drive in and out of the Canadian Pacific Railway yard in Bensenville. It’s a busy area, and suburban Chicago mayors fear it could get even busier if a proposed merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas Southern Railways goes ahead.
“Public safety will be at risk,” said Tom Dailly, mayor of Schaumburg.
Dailly expects some rail traffic in what’s called the Milwaukee District West Line, but a Canadian Pacific spokesman said the railroad’s proposal was to increase the number of freight trains by eight on average per day, from three to 11.
In Schaumburg on Tuesday, a group of suburban mayors met with Sen. Dick Durbin and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi seeking to lessen the impact on their communities. Krishnamoorthi says no metropolitan area in the country is more affected than the Chicago area with more than 50 crossings along a 20-mile stretch of track.
The proposed $31 billion deal would link the two railroads in a network that would stretch from Canada to Mexico.
Canadian Pacific said it had “addressed concerns about the impacts of the merger seriously and with a willingness to work towards reasonable solutions. We remain committed to that.”
But others, including commuter rail system Metra, worry the merger could throw Chicago rail traffic into chaos.
Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn said the trails cut communities like his in half. The Itasca fire chief said his department would be forced to find alternate routes.
“If we take an alternate route from our fire station, it would take 14 minutes to get to a run that would normally take one minute and 15 seconds,” Chief Jack Schneidwind said.
Mayors and lawmakers want a new environmental impact study done before the deal is done.
Mexican regulators have already given their approval to the merger, but the Surface Transportation Board must approve in that country. Its chairman is former city councilman and chairman of Metra’s board of directors, Marty Oberman.
The draft impact study conducted by the STB’s Environmental Analysis Office found that “with the exception of noise impacts, OAS analysis revealed that the impacts of the proposed acquisition would be negligible, minor or non-negative”.
Canadian Pacific predicts that the new transportation options made possible by a rail link between Canada, the United States and Mexico will allow 64,000 long-haul trucks per year to be converted to rail.
At this busy Bensenville rail yard, Canadian Pacific said it has already launched a multi-year project worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The goal, he said, is to transform this marshalling yard, dramatically increasing the capacity to receive and depart trains efficiently.
A final decision on the merger is expected in the coming months from the STB.