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CN, disgruntled communities meet

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Barrington and Aurora, Ill., officials met separately Nov. 4 with new Surface Transportation Board Chairman Dan Elliott, a day after he toured the EJ&E rail line with representatives of its new owner, Canadian National, the Daily Herald reports.

Aurora city spokeswoman
Carie Anne Ergo said a gathering of municipal leaders from the southern suburbs
affected by the CN purchase of the EJ&E spent nearly two hours with Elliott
discussing issues they’re facing because of the increased rail traffic. She
said STB officials told the group they heard many of the same concerns in
Barrington.

"I think the STB has a
greater understanding of how the acquisition of the EJ&E has affected
communities, and we’ve opened dialogue for CN to have greater accountability,"
Ergo said.

Barrington Village
President Karen Darch said the biggest benefit of Elliott and his staff’s visit
was their ability to see firsthand what communities like hers are concerned
about, rather than relying on a written description in a report.

"I think the most
significant thing is that they now understand some of the issues we’ve raised
over the oversight," Darch said.

But CN spokesman Patrick
Waldron said the rail transportation company was equally pleased by its chance
to update Elliott on the progress of its acquisition and improvement of the
line Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Ergo regarded
the open exchange with Elliott, whose board has oversight of the EJ&E
acquisition, as a first.

"The chairman is one
of only three members, but definitely he was open to suggestions and willing to
listen to concerns," Ergo said. "That’s an open door that this region
hasn’t experienced with the STB and was encouraging to a lot of people in the
room."

Ergo said the chief
complaint from the group centered on what the municipal leaders said was their
"struggle to get CN to live up to the agreements they made when they took
over this line."

Municipal leaders assert
the railroad company has not done any promised noise mitigation and has yet to
provide training for hazardous material spills to first responders.

However, CN’s report to the
STB for the third quarter of 2009 shows that both Aurora and Barrington were
among communities who sent the allowed two emergency workers each to a haz-mat
training session provided by CN.

Aurora officials Wednesday
also took Elliott and STB staffers to the Ogden Avenue intersection with the
EJ&E line to show them firsthand the impact there.

Waldron said CN’s tour of
the line with Elliott the day before demonstrated the company’s progress. He
added that CN has agreements with 19 communities along the length of the
EJ&E, which runs in an arc around the Chicago region from Waukegan to Gary,
Ind.

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