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Naperville, Aurora still fighting CN purchase
By Melissa Jenco and Justin Kmitch | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/22/2009 12:05 AM

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Naperville and Aurora have decided to stay on track with other towns that are appealing Canadian National's purchase of the EJ&E Railroad.

The two cities approved spending $7,500 each for attorneys to file in the Federal Court of Appeals seeking a review and stay of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board's Dec. 24 approval.

The federal appeal is being filed by a group of cities known as The Regional Answer to Canadian National. Those towns have expressed concerns about the additional noise, traffic and pollution that could come with additional freight traffic.

The Naperville City Council voted unanimously to join the appeal despite recommendations from its staff that it withdraw. Aurora aldermen passed the same measure through their committee of the whole Tuesday with no discussion and the city council is expected to formally approve the expense on Jan. 27.

"We're awfully pleased that the Naperville City Council really looked hard at the issue regionally and made the commitment," Aurora Assistant Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo said. "This sale would definitely impact all of our residents. What happens right across the border in Aurora is going to impact people in Naperville and vice versa."

Naperville Councilman Richard Furstenau agreed that the impact would be felt by both communities.

"We're in this thing together and it may be more on their land than our land," Furstenau said. "But the fact of the matter is it's going to affect both communities tremendously and we need to hang in there with them."

The new funds are in addition to the money they each put in last spring for lobbyist and public relations expenses - $10,000 from Naperville and $15,000 from Aurora.

City staff Tuesday recommended Naperville not join the appeal since many of its concerns have been addressed. The transportation board's decision included a requirement that Canadian National pay 67 percent of costs for a grade separated crossing at Ogden Avenue. The railway's share could total about $50 million with construction starting by 2015.

Canadian National also had agreed to honor quiet zones that soon will be going into effect. TRAC members pushed for such mitigation to help lessen the impact of the trains.

"Certainly Aurora has felt it is important to oppose this deal because of the severe impacts along Montgomery Road, Ogden Avenue and Liberty Street," Ergo said. "The costs associated with trying to mitigate the noise, vibration and traffic safety concerns that are going to result are going to be unbelievable."

But Naperville councilmen said they also want more assurance the sale will not mean the death of the STAR Line that would take riders down the Northwest Tollway, and from Hoffman Estates south to Joliet along the EJ&E tracks.

"I want to make certain we are making sure they make an accommodation for the STAR Line because that is a major transportation need of the future that we need to address now," Councilman Doug Krause said.

The transportation board is not requiring Canadian National to allow Metra to use the tracks for the STAR Line but said the two can try work out a deal.