Park Forest, Ill., CN reach agreement

Written by jrood

The village of Park Forest, Ill., and Canadian National Railway have reached an agreement on mitigation measures related to CN's recent acquisition of the old EJ&E Railroad, but not all residents are happy with the deal, the Southtown Star reports.The Park Forest Village Board approved the agreement, under which CN will give the village more than $7 million to help with traffic congestion, noise, and other issues stemming from the EJ&E deal.

Park Forest Mayor John
Ostenburg called the agreement a win for both sides, and a spokesman for CN

"This is the 19th
community out of 33 communities up and down the EJ&E to agree, and we see
this as moving forward and fulfilling our pledge to work with communities and
address their individual needs," CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said.

Other Southland towns to
reach deals with CN include Matteson, Richton Park, Frankfort, Chicago Heights
and Mokena.

CN will give nearly $2.5
million to reconstruct Orchard Drive from Lincoln Highway north to Lakewood
Boulevard. The railroad will repave and relight the commuter parking lot at
Homan Avenue and Hickory Street. It will also build a switch rail from the
east/west rail line to the north/south line.

CN said an average of
seven freight trains pass through the village now, though that number will soon
increase to about 30 trains a day.

That has some neighbors

Katie Armstrong was one
of two residents who said Monday they are worried about the environmental
impact the increased freight traffic could have on the village.

"We’re going to be
saddled with this — It is a hazard and we’re going to have to be living with
that hazard," said Armstrong, a 50-year-resident of Park Forest.

Resident Nancy Labb said
the agreement is probably too late.

"It’s nice to have
signs — and paving in a parking lot, but what is nicest of all is to keep the
community safe for its citizens," Labb said.

While Ostenburg said the
village board shares some of those environmental concerns, it can only focus on
what it has jurisdiction over, including things such as the placement of signs
and sound barriers.

CN also pointed out the
freight cars traveling the tracks along Park Forest will not just be hauling
chemicals. They will be carrying lumber, automotive equipment and furniture,
and all freight will be carefully monitored.

"In terms of just
overall regulation, we’re regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration
which has very specific and extensive rules about the transportation of any
good," Waldron said.

Armstrong said she hopes
the decision made by both parties turns out all right. In situations like this,
she said it comes down to using "ecological wisdom."

"We need to do
everything necessary to make sure in the long term our planet is clean for our
children and grandchildren," Armstrong said. "Freight trains are not
a green thing. They’re dirty."