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Roskam wants legislation to block CN rail purchase
By Chad Brooks | Daily Herald Staff

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam


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Published: 7/1/2008 12:09 AM

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U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam called for legislation Monday aimed at blocking Canadian National's proposed purchase of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway.

Specifically, the Wheaton Republican's legislation would designate a 36-mile stretch of the EJ&E railway through Chicago suburbs as a "Corridor for Inter-Suburban Commuter Rail."

If enacted, Roskam said the initiative would promote the creation of the Suburban Transit Access Route, known as the STAR line, and halt CN's attempted use of the EJ&E. The STAR line would provide for suburb-to-suburb train commuting by connecting nearly 100 towns from Joliet to O'Hare International Airport.

"With rising gas prices, my constituents and many suburbanites in the surrounding communities desperately need access to more efficient and cost-effective transportation options," Roskam said in a prepared statement.

"What they don't need is increased freight rolling through their backyards. Spending countless hours stuck in traffic, expending gallons and gallons of costly gasoline while idling hurts our working families," he said.

CN has proposed a $300 million purchase of the EJ&E, which runs in an arc around Chicago from Waukegan to Gary, Ind.

CN plans to use the EJ&E as a bypass for freight traffic around Chicago.

CN spokesman Jim Kvedaras said Roskam's proposed legislation would counter what CN trying to do by freeing up freight congestion through the area.

Roskam's measure would also "have the effect of suppressing interstate commerce on that line," Kvedaras said.

By allowing the trains the ability to move through the region more freely, Kvedaras said the businesses shipping the goods on the trains would end up saving money on transportation costs. He said those savings will then be passed on down the line.

"The ultimate beneficiary will be the consumers," he said.

Roskam believes the legislation and the creation of the STAR line would pave the way for a greatly improved suburban transportation system through a reduction in traffic congestion and a decrease in the area's consumption of gasoline.

"Improving the daily lives of Chicagoland residents, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and decreasing pollutants expelled into the air is reason enough to support this important piece of legislation," Roskam said in a prepared statement.

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has final say over the sale. It's currently conducting an Environmental Impact Study on the proposed transaction. A draft of that study is expected sometime this summer.