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New Lenox, Ill., seeks agreement with CN

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New Lenox, Ill., Mayor Tim Baldermann is "confident" that he soon will be talking to Canadian National Railway officials before the village's battle against the company reaches the courts, the Southtown Star reports.

While most towns in this
area already have negotiated settlements with CN, Will County, New Lenox and
seven others are still fighting to get the railroad to address their
environmental concerns. Just last month, Plainfield dropped out in exchange for
local upgrades, including a system to alert emergency workers about blocked
crossings and easements for an overpass at 143rd Street.

While Mokena and
Frankfort are spending CN’s money on landscaped buffers and quiet zone
improvements, New Lenox has held out for an overpass, preferably at Gougar
Road, in unincorporated Will County. CN bisects the village and has five
at-grade crossings at Schoolhouse, Spencer, Cedar, Nelson and Gougar roads.

Baldermann said he has
been working with U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-11th), of Crete, to facilitate
a meeting with CN. He learned last week that CN is willing to talk one-on-one
about what the village needs.

"That’s the most
encouraging news I’ve heard," Baldermann said. "I’m confident we will
sit down soon and discuss our individual issues."

In an e-mailed statement,
Halvorson said, "While some mitigation activity still depends on what will
happen in the courts, I’m pleased the new (Surface Transportation Board)
chairman is taking an active interest regarding CN mitigation, and I also
appreciate how he’s actively soliciting our communities’ opinions on the
matter. That sort of effort needs to continue, and I’ll continue to encourage
that."

Still in the legal fight
with New Lenox and Will County are DuPage County, Barrington, Aurora,
Barrington Hills, Naperville, Bartlett and Wayne.

In addition to getting
overpasses at key crossings, Will County Executive Larry Walsh said communities
also want to be notified when hazardous materials are going through, which CN
has flatly denied.

"It’s all about
safety and protection of our citizens. Anything less than that would be
negligent," he said.

Ed Gower, attorney for
this coalition, said they hope to require the transportation board to
"take a harder look at the environmental consequences and provide adequate
mitigation."

In December 2008, the
transportation board decided the transportation benefits outweighed the
environmental issues and allowed CN to purchase 198 miles of EJ&E Railroad
tracks. CN plans to increase the number of freight trains on this line from six
to 28 per day.

According to CN spokesman
Patrick Waldron, they ran 7.7 trains per day in December. He declined to
comment on the lawsuit or on a specific meeting with New Lenox.

"We have been in
contact with every community and will continue to be, including New
Lenox," Waldron said.

Gower said initial
briefings are due April 7 and after oral arguments are heard in the fall, it
could be another two to six months before a decision is made.

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