CN asks court to prod STB on Chicagoland rail deal
Canadian National Railway Co. said it has petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for an expedited ruling ordering the Surface Transportation Board to render a final decision on the merits of CN’s proposed acquisition of the principal lines of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Co., to allow the transaction to close by Dec. 31.
“We cannot permit regulatory delay to imperil this transaction,” said E. Hunter Harrison, CN’s president and chief executive officer.
He said “the transaction will be good for the Chicago region as a whole. It would ease rail congestion, which is critically important to the region’s economy and its continued role as one of America’s most important transportation hubs.”
He also contended “the transaction would benefit the environment of the overall Chicago region. For every community along the EJ&E line in the suburbs of Chicago that would see increased train traffic as a result of the transaction, nearly double that number along CN lines in inner Chicago would see decreased rail operations. In fact, roughly 60 communities inside the EJ&E arc would benefit from reduced train traffic as a result of the transaction. That would mean a better quality of life for residents of the Chicago region, with less pollution, fewer idling trains and fewer blocked crossings.”
However, the CN purchase has faced strong opposition in some towns that would see additional trains.
STB last week rejected a CN proposal that it first rule on the transportation merits of the EJ&E while completing its environmental review of the transaction. During this environmental review, CN proposed to maintain an “environmental status quo” by not shifting any of its trains to the EJ&E until that review had been completed.
“The agency’s decision — and continuing uncertainty about the timing of the STB’s final decision on the transaction — leave us no option but to ask the court to compel a final STB decision,” Harrison contended. “The bottom line is that the benefits to Chicago’s rail network and environment from rerouting trains off congested city and inner Chicago lines onto the underused EJ&E are too great to see this transaction derailed.”
CN says its purchase of the EJ&E would “significantly improve the fluidity of rail operations in the Chicago region, resulting in faster transit times and more reliable service for rail customers”