Monday, July 17, 2017

Filing asks STB to reject Chicago rail freight line

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Opposition groups from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana in a filing have asked the Surface Transportation Board to reject an application from Great Lakes Basin Transportation to build a rail freight line around Chicago because there is no proof of funding and railroads committed to use the line.

"The application should be rejected for failure to have provided essential evidence," Chicago attorney Thomas McFarland wrote in a filing with the Surface Transportation Board on July 10. The board is considering GLBT’s application for a new 261-mile line from Milton, Wisc., to LaPorte County, Ind., which would bypass congestion in Chicago.

Opponents of the privately-funded, $2.8-billion project have raised concerns ranging from loss of farmland to safety and drainage issues.

Mike Blaszak, attorney for GLBT, said in an email to the Chicago Tribune that the company would respond to the filing, but had no immediate comment.

Great Lakes applied to the STB in early May, and followed up with more filings with requested information about its shareholders and balance sheet. The company’s primary stockholder is founder and chairman Frank Patton, who previously was in the financial software business.

The groups in their filing are protesting the fact that Great Lakes said it would arrange funding and customers once the STB approved the project. "That is the exact opposite of the board's process for track construction," McFarland wrote. "… [T]here must be evidence at the outset of ability to fully fund a track construction, and of the likelihood that rail carriers and shippers will make use of the rail line. There is no such evidence in GLBT's application." Great Lakes has yet to enter into any service agreements with the six Class 1 railroads it would serve, McFarland said in the filing.

"Thus, as in the matter of financial fitness, there is no evidence whatsoever in the application of a public need or demand for the rail line proposed by GLBT," the filing states. The STB yet to respond to Great Lakes' additional filings for its application, or rule on the application itself. Great Lakes officials asked the STB to halt an environmental impact statement on the proposal earlier this year until the application was filed. That remains on hold.





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