Illinois officials vow to hold BNSF responsible for flooding

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
rail bridges
The First Street railroad bridge runs over a massive BNSF rail yard.
BNSF Railway

Cicero and Cook County, Ill., officials want BNSF to be held accountable for flooding problems for residents as a result of concrete resurfacing of the Class 1’s properties.

Officials have reported that many residential homes and properties throughout Chicagoland adjacent to BNSF properties have suffered damage as a result of rainwater runoff from railroad property. A lawsuit was filed over the summer.

Illinois State Rep. Michael Zalewski said he has introduced legislation that would require all railroad companies that own a minimum of 5% of the land in any community to adhere to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Watershed Management ordinances managing stormwater runoff. BNSF owns more than 7% in the town of Cicero.

“We are blessed in Cook County and the MWRD region with a very modern drainage law, an ordinance that makes sure the water shed is being managed properly given the flooding issues that we have,” said Zalewski. “We just simply want the town of Cicero and the residents effected by flooding to be protected by this ordinance.”

Illinois State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, who is a resident of Cicero, said her home has flooded and that she has noticed increased flooding coming off of the BNSF properties, including flooding under the railroad viaduct on Austin Blvd. just north of Ogden Avenue. She also noted several areas of Cicero, like 58th Court between 27th Street and 28th Street, have seen flooding as rainwater has poured off of the BNSF resurfaced properties.

“Over the past two decades, BNSF has irresponsibly replaced soft ground that absorbs rainwater with concrete and asphalt causing rainwater to wash off onto properties of nearby homes and private properties, causing flooding without providing meaningful and effective safeguards,” said Illinois State Sen. Antonio Munoz.

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