Suburban mayors urge feds to slow railroad merger after Ohio derailment

‘I think every mayor thinks the same thing: “What happens if that happens in my town?”’ Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said.

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DuPage Rail Safety Council Chair Lanny Wilson is flanked by local mayors and lawmakers as he outlines concerns about a merger of Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern Railway.

DuPage Rail Safety Council Chair Lanny Wilson is flanked by local mayors and lawmakers as he outlines concerns about a merger of Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern Railway.

Marni Pyke/Daily Herald

With a decision on a railroad merger coming soon, suburban mayors and lawmakers on Monday exhorted federal regulators to postpone any decisions given a recent catastrophic derailment in Ohio.

“It’s a nightmare for me, and I think every mayor thinks the same thing: ‘What happens if that happens in my town?’” Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said during a briefing in Itasca organized by the Coalition to Stop CPKC.

The Canadian Pacific Railway is seeking the U.S. Surface Transportation Board’s approval of its acquisition of the Kansas City Southern Railway.

Coalition members who are fighting the plan warn of delays for first responders, as well as traffic, air pollution and hazardous materials spills. The coalition on Monday filed two new complaints regarding the merger with the Surface Transportation Board.

Officials opposed to the merger cited the derailment of 38 Norfolk Southern freight cars on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio, that led to vinyl chloride being released into the environment and has raised serious health fears for residents.

“A derailment like we saw in Ohio would be catastrophic,” said state Rep. Maura Hirschauer of Batavia, noting thousands of suburbanites live along the Canadian Pacific tracks.

Bensenville Village President Frank DeSimone said there are “houses in Bensenville that are right next to the train tracks. We cannot have that. We will not have that.”

Canadian Pacific spokesman Andy Cummings said Monday that “railways, including CP, are legally required to transport hazardous materials as part of their common carrier obligations.”

The railroad strives to “make the transportation of hazardous materials and other goods as safe as possible,” Cummings said.

“CP has led the industry with the lowest train accident frequency rate in North America for 17 straight years, illustrating the effectiveness of our efforts to enhance public safety and protect the environment.”

Canadian Pacific estimates an average of eight trains would be added to the metro area daily, for a total of 11.

Opponents anticipate up to 18 total freight trains.

Lanny Wilson, chairman of the DuPage Railroad Safety Council, said Canadian Pacific’s proposal appears to lack any safety improvements such as grade separations or four-quadrant gates that prevent cars from weaving around them.

“Let’s be in the business of preventing tragedies, not the business of crisis intervention and cleanup after the preventable crashes and derailments have occurred,” he said.

Read more at dailyherald.com.

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