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Agency wants CN to pony up $150 million to sweeten merger
Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/1/2008 12:07 AM

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The region's planning and development think tank wants the Canadian National Railway to contribute $150 million to remedy problems caused by putting more freight trains onto a smaller suburban railroad.

CN is seeking to buy the EJ&E, which runs from Waukegan to Gary, Ind.

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning leaders Tuesday said CN's plan to move freights from tracks in the city and nearby suburbs onto the EJ&E could have an overall positive effect on the economy and region.

But they told the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which has authority over the merger, the government needs to get tougher by requiring CN to submit to conditions such as the $150 million fund that would be used for underpasses or overpasses and other safety features.

The planning agency also recommended CN be required to help with sidewalk and trail crossings along EJ&E tracks and promise its plans don't scuttle the STAR line. The STAR line is a proposed suburb-to-suburb commuter rail service that would travel partly along the EJ&E. However, CN is less than enthused about sharing tracks.

The merger plan has divided the region, with communities along the EJ&E fighting the purchase and those that would see fewer trains supporting it.

CN had no comment on the agency's move.

The railroad in September took legal action against the Surface Transportation Board, seeking to get a U.S. appeals court to force the agency to make its decision before a Dec. 31 deadline CN faces with the EJ&E's owner, U.S. Steel.

The appeal is still pending, CN said.