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CN joins foes piling on federal report
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 7/30/2008 12:04 AM

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On second thought, the Canadian National Railway isn't thrilled with a report by federal regulators on its request to purchase the EJ&E railroad.

Friday, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board issued a draft environmental impact analysis reviewing what will happen to the region if it allows the merger to go through.

CN is seeking to spend $300 million to buy the underused tracks and move a huge chunk of its freight trains now traveling through Chicago and nearby suburbs onto the EJ&E. While the plan would ease congestion on CN lines, it would add substantial train traffic to the "J," which arcs around the region from Waukegan to Gary, Ind.

Many community leaders and congressmen representing towns that will see more freight traffic pounced on the environmental impact statement last week, saying it was inadequate and appeased the rail industry.

CN issued a short statement saying it believed the report conformed to its view that the issues raised by the merger weren't unusual.

But Tuesday, the company's CEO Hunter Harrison went further, saying he was disappointed by the federal board's analysis, suggesting staff was using questionable standards for deciding what crossings would benefit by grade separations, one of the most expensive ways of remedying safety concerns.

CN has offered to pay about $40 million toward offsetting the impact of more freights in towns, a sum opponents call insufficient.

U.S Rep. Melissa Bean, a Barrington Democrat who is fighting the merger, said last week "$40 million is laughable."