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Feds urge quick decision on EJ&E rail purchase
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/31/2008 12:03 AM

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With two months to go before a deal between the Canadian National Railway and U.S. Steel to buy the EJ&E railroad expires, the U.S. Department of Transportation is urging federal regulators to make up their minds quickly.

DOT attorneys filed a letter with the Surface Transportation Board this week, saying "it is in the best interests of the public to expedite proceedings ... and minimize the risk of losing beneficial transactions due to administrative processes."

The merger between CN and the smaller Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway has torn apart the region. CN intends to move many of its freights from lines traveling through Chicago and nearby suburbs onto the "J," which runs in a semicircle from Waukegan to Gary, Ind.

CN and its supporters say the move would ease congestion and fix a train bottleneck in Chicago but communities along the EJ&E are aghast at the prospect of more freights rumbling through their towns and how it will affect their quality of life.

The STB, which will make the final decision on the issue, has denied a request by CN to rule on the transportation merits of the merger in short order and decide on the environmental aspects later.

That would have allowed CN to close its deal with U.S. Steel by a Dec. 31 deadline. After STB balked at splitting the decision, the railroad asked the U.S. Appeals Court to intervene. So far, there's no word from the appeals court on CN's request.