Updated 3/10/2022 3:28 PM
While already in the ring, Elgin officially joined the fight Wednesday against a railroad merger that could see freight train traffic nearly triple downtown.
The city council voted unanimously to finalize an agreement to work with seven other municipalities and DuPage County in a coalition that will work to block the merger between the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern freight railroads. The group has already filed its objections with federal regulators.
“There’s no community impacted more than the city of Elgin by this merger,” Mayor David Kaptain said during Wednesday’s meeting. “Both because of the number of crossings that we have in our downtown, but also environmentally because the railroad tracks downtown are within 100 feet of the Fox River and a derailment or an accident down there could be disastrous for us.”
CPKC filed a merger application with the Federal Surface Transportation Board in October 2021 to create the only single-line rail network linking the United States, Canada and Mexico. The $31 billion merger would go through the heart of Bartlett, Bensenville, Elgin, Itasca, Hanover Park, Roselle, Wood Dale and Schaumburg, the eight communities that created the “Coalition to Stop CPKC.”
DuPage County joined the effort this week. Elgin City Manager Rick Kozal said Kane County also might join. He said Metra, while not part of the coalition, is joining in opposition.
The merger requires the approval of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, a five-member panel that regulates mergers, acquisitions and other matters related to the nation’s railroad industry.
Leaders from the coalition towns say that the merger would nearly triple the number of freight trains while also increasing the lengths of those trains on the Milwaukee District West Line running from Elgin to Chicago. They say more frequent, longer trains would mean longer crossing delays for commuters, school buses and emergency responders, in addition to more noise.
“I don’t think people realize the significance of how this could negatively impact our community if this were to go through,” council member Tish Powell said.
Itasca will coordinate the coalition’s efforts, and all parties involved will equally split the costs and expenses of attorneys and consultants.
Kaptain said bypassing the crossings in Elgin, either by going over or under the intersections, would cost billions of dollars.
“That’s billions with a ‘b,'” he said. “Whatever it is, it’s more money than what we have. So this is something that we really need to work at.”