Monday, January 18, 2010

County still fighting CN Railway

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Plainfield, Ill., and some other towns have stopped fighting the Canadian National Railway, but other municipalities aren't ready to do that yet, the Aurora Beacon News reports. Will County is among them.

During the Jan. 14 executive committee meeting of the Will County Board, Lee Ann Goodson, R-Plainfield, talked about the issue. In January 2009, CN finalized its purchase of the 198-mile EJ&E line, a move designed to route trains away from Chicago. The EJ&E's tracks stretch from Waukegan to Gary, Ind., while passing through several Will County towns such as Joliet and Frankfort.

Many Will County residents and officials worried about the sale, citing increased train traffic, the accompanying traffic tie-ups on area roads, the county's many "at-grade" rail crossings and the transportation of hazardous materials, among other potential problems. Will County has 133 at-grade crossings -- meaning places where train tracks cross a road and aren't elevated to run above it. When a train goes through the crossing, the traffic on the street must stop until the rail cars have passed.

Although many towns fought the purchase, it happened. After the sale, Will County and other municipalities filed a lawsuit alleging that environmental issues along the route weren't solved before the sale, among other issues.

In December, Plainfield dropped out of the lawsuit after a subsidiary of CN made several concessions, among them the promise to fund a system that would alert emergency workers to the status of railroad crossing gates. It also gave the village a three-acre parcel that will be part of Plainfield's river walk development project along the DuPage River

Ed Gower, of Hinshaw and Culbertson, is representing the several different communities and organizations in the lawsuit. He recently updated them on the issue, Goodson said. In legal documents related to the suit, Gower will argue that the Surface Transportation Board made a mistake when it decided that the sale's affects on the environment were offset by other benefits, Goodson said. And legal documents also will be filed arguing that the Surface Transportation Board did not pay enough attention to the potential threats to public safety that were created by the sale.

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