Daily Herald opinion: Benefits of rail merger shouldn’t come at undue expense of our suburbs

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This editorial is the consensus opinon of the Daily Herald Editorial Board

Whether intentional or not, congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi used a particularly apt reference when he expressed uneasiness this week about the pace at which plans are progressing for the merger of two huge rail systems that will have a material impact on daily life in the suburbs.

“I’m just very concerned about the notion of this merger getting railroaded through the Surface Transportation Board,” the Schaumburg Democrat said at a news conference with several suburban mayors protesting the deal.

Linguists argue over details of its origins, but the pejorative use of the term “railroaded” clearly dates to the rapid, often indifferent, construction of rail lines across territories of North America and Britain in the late 19th century. As Krishnamoorthi suggested and local suburban leaders have been complaining for months, the term clearly still resonates today.

At issue is a proposed merger of two huge rail lines that would result in the only continuous railroad system connecting Canada and Mexico, along the way cutting directly through numerous communities in the Northwest suburbs. The $31 billion combination of the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railways is currently being studied for possible approval by the federal Surface Transporation Board.

Rail officials tout significant benefits to the economy and the environment the merger could bring for the Chicago area and the nation as a whole. They promise that the increased freight traffic they envision would not pose a substantial safety risk and the disruptions it would cause would be, if not insignificant, at least tolerable.

Local officials are far from convinced, with eight towns affected by the plan forming a Coalition to Stop CPKC to unify and strengthen their voice. They want $9 billion to address the issues they foresee and drop their opposition before the government. The railroads offered $10 million. That’s an intimidating gap, and both sides, each with justification, accuse the other of not being serious.

But making up the difference ought not be impossible. The railroads point to the $625,000 agreement they reached with Hampshire to address noise and safety concerns there. So, there is at least some precedent to suggest accord can be reached.

On a larger scale, though, that will require that everyone sincerely acknowledge the legitimate concerns and interests of the other side. The proposed line indeed should help reduce truck traffic on area highways and offer substantial efficiencies benefiting the local and national economy. But the risks and hardships of providing those benefits ought not be shouldered overwhelmingly by a handful of communities facing the prospects of two-mile-long trains blocking traffic — and potentially emergency vehicles — for long periods several times a day.

Today’s regulatory environment, of course, is considerably more intense and responsible than that which robber barons could easily maneuver through in the 1800s, and in a guest column published in the Daily Herald last March, Canadian Pacific spokesman Andy Cummings promised the railroads are committed to working with local communities to find “reasonable solutions” to their concerns.

But if local communities still worry that they’re being “railroaded” into accepting a project that will cost them dearly in safety and quality of life, it’s obvious there’s still a lot more work to be done.

Feeds,Region: DuPage,Local,Region: Suburbs

via DailyHerald.com > news_county_news https://ift.tt/kMvNJKY

July 28, 2022 at 01:09AM

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