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STB: Train noise could be biggest environmental impact from CP-KCS merger

Comments on draft environmental impact statement due Sept. 26

Train noise could be the largest impact to the environment should the merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern come to fruition, according to a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) released by the Surface Transportation Board.

STB’s Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA), which conducted the study, “has concluded that, apart from train noise, which could result in adverse impacts at some locations, the potential adverse impacts of the proposed acquisition would be negligible, minor and/or temporary,” according to the draft EIS released Friday. 

OEA looked at what would be the environmental impacts of the merger, including adding eight trains to 14.4 trains per day, on average, on the network between Chicago and Laredo, Texas.

OEA said it conducted an extensive independent analysis of the proposed merger, which included consulting with federal, state and local agencies as well as tribes and input from organizations and the public. The analysis also included an “no-action alternative,” which is what the environmental impacts of the two rail systems would be if STB didn’t approve the merger. 

According to the EIS, CP’s (NYSE: CP) and KCS’ joint application to the board details how the merged company would make capital improvements to portions of the network to accommodate an anticipated increase in rail traffic due to diversion of freight from other railroads and from trucks. 

The capital improvements would include adding new passing sidings, extending existing sidings, adding a section of double track and adding facility working track at 25 locations along the merged network. 

The double track would be added in Blue Valley near Kansas City, Missouri, while the facility working track would be adjacent to the International Freight Gateway intermodal terminal near Kansas City. 

The construction of new rail lines and the abandonment of existing rail lines isn’t anticipated, according to the draft EIS.

CP and KCS expect that the largest traffic change would occur on the CP main line between Sabula, Iowa, and Kansas City, with rail traffic increasing by as much as 14.4 trains per day. 

The OEA found that the merger would result in “minor adverse impacts” when it comes to freight and passenger rail safety, with any increases offset by decreases in accidents on other rail lines or the highways. 

Minor adverse impacts are also anticipated for safety at high/rail at-grade crossings. The area where there could be great impact on safety would be the grade crossing at Miller Road in Hungerford, Texas, and CP and KCS address voluntary mitigation efforts in their application.

Grade crossing delays would also see minor adverse impacts from the merger, according to the draft EIS. The greatest average delay increase would be at the grade crossing across Ripley Street in Davenport, Iowa, with delays increasing to about 7.3 seconds per vehicle. 

Interested parties can respond to the draft EIS by Sept. 26, and there will be in-person and online public meetings taking place on the study in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Texas. After the comment period closes, OEA will prepare a final OES, which will include recommendations to mitigate potential environmental impacts. STB’s approval of the proposed merger could include conditions that incorporate recommendations in the final EIS.

Shareholders of CP and KCS approved the $31 billion deal in December and the merger now sits before STB for review. CP has said it hopes for the agency’s approval by early 2023.

CP and KCS say the merger would create a single rail system known as Canadian Pacific Kansas City, or CPKC, with a network that would include approximately 21,400 miles of track in total, with approximately 6,900 miles in the U.S. The network would extend from Canada into  the U.S. and Mexico, and CP and KCS say the new rail system would create an “end-to-end” merger because the existing CP and KCS systems don’t overlap.

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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.