RAIL: Federal board rejects Chicago-area tri-state rail plan

Great Lakes Basin Transportation's proposed 261-mile rail line was turned down by the federal Surface Transportation Board

September 06, 2017
Railroad crossing

A proposal to ease rail and traffic congestion by constructing a 261-mile rail line around the Chicago area has been rejected by federal regulators.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation's proposed tri-state rail line, which would have bypassed Chicago's busy terminal and operated through parts of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, was turned down earlier this week by the federal Surface Transportation Board.

Regulators said the financial information in Great Lakes' application was "fundamentally flawed." The decision came after years of planning and several hearings, followed by a formal application submitted in May. Regulators also said that Great Lakes did not provide enough information to determine the financial feasibility of the planned rail project.

The board said it made its decision to reject the rail line to protect the communities and business that would be disrupted by the project should Great Lakes begin construction and not be able to complete it.

Great Lakes argued the proposed rail line—which stretches in relatively sparsely populated areas from as far north as Milton, Wis., south over the Fox and Illinois rivers and then east to La Porte, Ind.—could reduce 30-hour freight transit times through the Chicago area to 8 hours. In turn, it would provide relief to suburban commuters in cars and trains as more freight trains bypassed the downtown area.

Several opposition groups, including Openlands, a local conservation organization, filed petitions against Great Lakes' plan. Openlands instead supports the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program (CREATE), a partnership among the U.S. Department of Transportation, the state of Illinois, the city of Chicago, Metra, Amtrak and the nation's freight railroads to improve rail line efficiency.

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Source: Chicago Tribune

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