U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) today issued the following statement after the Surface Transportation Board (STB) released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), which - upon being finalized after a period of public comment -- will determine whether Canadian National (CN) is permitted to acquire the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway (EJ&E) line and what mitigation steps CN would be required to take should the merger go forward:
"This impact statement is wholly inadequate. It identifies a range of consequences that this merger would have on our community, but dismisses far too many of them as insignificant. I think the Board has placed too small a price on the severe impact that this merger will have on the quality of life in our community.
"The report outlines total automobile wait times up to 165 hours per day at a given crossing, and points out that the service of at least 11 emergency fire and medical response providers would be significantly impacted. How is it possible that the STB considers only three locations along the entire EJ&E to be strong candidates for a grade separation? I'm pleased that the report identified several crossings in Aurora, Joliet, and Plainfield as sites for mitigation, but I fear that without taking significant steps, these areas will experience dramatic delays. And while CN reaps all the profit of increasing freight traffic, the taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for 90 to 95 percent of grade separation construction costs. That's unfair and unacceptable.
"Even worse, the STB's plan for this merger would reduce quality of life and increase congestion in more ways then one. The report outlines no serious commitment to Metra's proposed STAR line, which was supposed to provide much-needed inter-suburban public transit along the EJ&E from Joliet to O'Hare. So instead of relieving congestion by giving suburban residents more convenient public transportation options, this plan will have motorists sitting in traffic waiting for the trains to go by.
"There is still a long way to go. We have until September 30th to voice our concerns with the STB, and I am working with my colleagues in Congress as well as local leaders to explore all available options. We will continue to reach out to area residents and use every tool in our arsenal to ensure that our concerns about public safety, congestion, noise, and pollution are fully addressed. Suburban school busses and emergency responders shouldn't have to sit in traffic so CN can add to their bottom line."