EJ&E merger foes prep for next battle

Written by jrood

One appeal of a controversial railway sale was denied this week, clearing the way for another -- this one in federal court, according to the Fox Valley Villages Sun. On August 5, the federal Surface Transportation Board rejected an appeal by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The ICC objected to Canadian National Railway Company's $300-million purchase of the suburban Elgin, Joliet and Eastern rail line, which the STB approved in December.

In denying this motion,
the Transportation Board effectively finalized its December decision, as there
are no further appeals before that board. And with a final decision in place,
an appeal in federal court — filed seven months ago by opponents of the sale
— can proceed. With the procedural obstacles all but cleared, the local
opposition hopes that case can move forward.


The ICC appeal was one of
two things keeping the federal court from hearing the case. The other is a
vacancy on the Transportation Board. President Barack Obama has nominated
Daniel Elliott III, an associate attorney at the United Transportation Union.
Confirmation hearings are ongoing.


Assistant chief of staff
Carie Anne Ergo, speaking on behalf of Mayor Tom Weisner of Aurora, expressed
hope that the appeal can move forward. Weisner is the chair of The Regional
Answer to Canadian National, or TRAC, the organized group of municipalities
opposing the sale.


As if to set the stage
for that battle, TRAC again called for the federal government to re-examine
Canadian National’s safety plan for the suburban line. They also requested that
Canadian National be forbidden from shifting new train traffic onto that line
until the safety plan has been reviewed and updated.


Opponents are concerned
about a proposed increase in train traffic along the EJ&E, which would see
the number of trains quadruple in some areas. Canadian National officials
confirmed that only two new trains have been added.


But opponents are also
concerned about Canadian National’s safety record, citing two recent incidents
to back up their case. On June 19 in Rockford a train carrying flammable
liquids derailed, causing an explosion that killed one person and injured
several others. Then, on July 11 in Park Forest, a motorist hit the side of a
moving train.


TRAC’s press release
referred to a report from Park Forest’s E-News, which included witness reports
that the intersection’s gates were not functioning. The release called the
recent issues a "safety meltdown," and said driving over Canadian
National rail crossings is akin to "playing Russian roulette with the


Canadian National
spokesman Patrick Waldron would not discuss the Rockford incident, saying it is
still under federal investigation. But he did say the gates were functioning in
Park Forest, and on-board camera footage from the train proves it. The video
clearly shows the car going under the gate, pushing it up as it went, Waldron


National)’s opponents are leveling false and misleading information,"
Waldron said. "(Canadian National) stands firmly behind its Safety
Integration Plan, and its operations on the EJ&E reflect that strong safety


This is the second time
TRAC has asked for a review of Canadian National’s safety plan. Ergo said she
hopes to light a fire under both the STB and the Federal Railroad


"It’s irresponsible to
approve these transactions and then just walk away, without taking a closer
look," she said.