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Chicago suburbs protest planned CP-KCS merger

Communities contend increase in freight train traffic could bring more blocked crossings

A KCS train and a CP train. (Photos: Jim Allen/FreightWaves, Canadian Pacific)

Eight Chicago suburbs are seeking to prevent the merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern from happening, saying that the additional traffic coming from the merger would create more gridlock from blocked crossings and could cause environmental harm to their communities. 

Local officials representing the communities of Bartlett, Bensenville, Elgin, Itasca, Hanover Park, Roselle, Schaumburg and Wood Dale say they will collectively file their objections with the Surface Transportation Board next Monday. Their communities run along the Milwaukee District West line of Chicago commuter rail service Metra, which operates on tracks that are part of CP’s Elgin subdivision.

Shareholders of CP (NYSE: CP) and KCS approved the $31 billion deal in December, and the merger is now before STB for review. 

The potentially impacted region has more than 50 at-grade crossings. The communities — which represent more than 300,000 residents — contend that the increase in freight train traffic as well as the increase in train lengths could potentially be a safety risk for first responders because of the potential for blocked crossings. Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn said in the group’s statement that one freight train has the potential to block five grade crossings simultaneously in his village. 

“We have potentially one of the most dangerous crossings on the entire Chicagoland rail system,” said Roselle Mayor David Pilesk in the group’s Tuesday statement. “The massive, planned increase in freight traffic cannot occur without substantial mitigation measures for protection. It is unthinkable that our crossing could become more dangerous.”

The group also pointed to projected increases in intermodal traffic in Bensenville, from 383 trucks per day to 698 trucks by 2027.

Other concerns include the potential for increased shipments of hazardous materials running through the communities, as well as environmental impacts to wetlands located in Roselle and Schaumburg.

The communities say they have been seeking to determine what impact the merger would have on the municipalities since first engaging with CP over the merger last December.

In response to the group’s concerns, CP confirmed that conversations between the railway and the communities are ongoing. 

Projected freight train traffic in 2027 post-merger could grow to 11.4 trains per day for the corridor, compared with a projected 3.4 freight trains per day if the merger didn’t happen — an increase of eight trains per day, according to CP. But Metra’s commuter rail traffic has also been reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 58 scheduled trains per day, or 29 daily Metra trains each way in and out of Chicago, to 40 scheduled Metra trains. 

“We recognize that we will be increasing the number of trains that operate through some communities and understand the community concerns being expressed,” CP told FreightWaves. “We are talking directly to community leaders and we will work hard to be a good neighbor. That includes meeting with these suburban Chicago communities — individually and as a group — to go over their concerns.” 

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.