In May of last year I wrote a post about the Great Lakes Basin Transportation (GLBT) and their attempt to build a rail line from Indiana through Illinois to Rock County Wisconsin, just east of Milton. It’s been a busy year and currently the process is on hold waiting for Frank Patton to provide some information to the Surface Transportation Board (STB). He asked for, and was granted a suspension of the environmental review process last month in order to allow him more time to gather any information he needs to submit his application or give yet another update to the STB.
This isn’t the first extension he has asked for. It seems to me he is trying to back pedal a bit. I don’t think he anticipated the kind of opposition he would get. Apparently Mr. Patton underestimated the tenacity of us Midwesterners. We have a good life here and we are not willing to give it up without a fight so he can play trains!
The purpose of Patton’s rail line is to divert trains just passing through Chicago away from the congested rail yard. Chicago has the busiest rail hub in the country; 1300 trains a day work their way through the yard. It can take several hours to get through on a good day, so at first glance that sounds like a good idea, right? Simply provide a way for trains that have no need to pass through Chicago to go around and on their way. It’s not that simple though, on several levels.
GLB owner, Frank Patton, plans on using the eminent domain laws to acquire the land needed for the railroad across the three states and 11 counties. If you are unfamiliar with eminent domain, I discussed it in my original post. There are precious few people between LaPorte Indiana and Milton Wisconsin that are in favor of this project. It don’t think would be too big a stretch to say that there isn’t a single farmer on the path between Wisconsin and Indiana that is happy about losing their land. Farmers work hard. It’s not a 9 to 5 job, and they do it because they love it. To take their land and their livelihood to build an unnecessary rail line is ridiculous.
The issue is not just thousands of acres of lost farmland. Some of the trains on this toll line, yes it’s going to be a toll line, will be traveling at speeds up to 70 mph, so a derailment of a train carrying combustible or toxic material could be devastating to the surrounding land, the water table, animals and people living near the rail. Not to mention the noise levels. Patton anticipates multiple trains and hour, some miles long. Just imagine the sound of it, all day, every day, and the vibration that goes along with it.
The proposed rail line is for Class One railroads and there are six that currently pass through Chicago. They are the Norfolk Southern, CXS, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, and the Canadian National. In my research I have not found any of these lines that have said they would love to spend money to get their trains around Chicago faster. What I have found is that two of the lines have stated they will not. One already has an existing way around, two are planning their own intermodal yards and one has not yet said yes or no. Mr. Patton wants to spend millions of dollars on a rail line that potentially will not be used.
The kicker to all of this is that in June of 2003 Mayor Daley of Chicago recognized that something must be done to make the rail traffic in and around Chicago more efficient not only for the railroads but for the people of the city that have to deal with the delays caused by the trains and the pollution they spit out every day. Mr. Daley called on the STB to help and they pulled a team together which included the city of Chicago, the State of Illinois, the U.S. DOT, and all six of the major freight carriers as well as Amtrak.
Together this team, called Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program (CREATE) worked out a plan to fix the congestion and have put millions of dollars to date into doing just that. Many of the projects are completed but there is still much to do. When all is said and done billions of dollars will have been spent but the congestion and time issues will have been taken care of. Isn’t that the point? It seems to me that if there is a plan under way to take care of the issues associated with trains getting through Chicago in a timely manner, there is no need at all for Mr. Patton’s rail line. Let Chicago finish their work. Yes it will take time, but let them!
One item remains to be discussed. What can we do to stop this project?
A lot actually. Spreading the word is the best thing we can do. Even after a year there are people who have no idea of the fight going on. So talk about it, share this post. Go to the Rock Against the Rail Facebook and Web Page
Write letters and make phone calls to your elected officials. We can even write to the STB. The open access has stopped but they are still accepting letters and it can be done through email or regular snail mail. The address is:
To send an email go to: http://www.stb.gov
Go to the e-file tab, click it and then choose Environmental Tab, Docket # FP 35952
Choose Attention Kenneth Blodgett. Fill in the rest of the info and submit.
Surface Transportation Board
Docket # FP 35952
395 E Street SW
Washington, DC 20423-0001
Get involved, the future generations of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana will thank you.