Citizens express concerns about proposed railroad
* 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 11, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club Banquet Hall, 851 N. Main St., Manteno, Ill.
* 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 12, Lowell Town Hall, 501 E. Main St., Lowell, Ind.
* 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 13, American Legion Banquet Hall, 203 S. Washington St., Wanatah, Ind.
* 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 14, Civic Auditorium Banquet Room, 1001 Ridge St., LaPorte, Ind.
* 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 18, Craig High School Cafeteria, 401 S. Randall St., Janesville, Wis.
* 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 19, Cherry Valley Fire Station No. 2 Hall, 4919 Blackhawk Road, Rockford, Ill.
* 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 20, Rochelle Township High School Auditorium, 1401 Flagg Road, Rochelle, Ill.
* 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 21, Seneca High School Auditorium, 307 E. Scott St., Seneca, Ill.
The meetings will be held in an open house format for the first hour followed by a brief presentation by the Office of Environmental Analysis. After the presentation, interested parties will be provided an opportunity for public comment. A court reporter will transcribe these oral public comments.
The meeting locations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act People who need special accommodations should contact OEA’s project manager.
“You folks are way ahead of the issue. You are way more informed,” said Bob Walberg, chairman of the Boone County Board.
Walberg addressed the more than 100 residents who turned out for the regular March board meeting in response to a proposal to run a railroad line through the east side of the county.
The Great Lakes Basin Railroad is a project proposed by the Great Lakes Basin Transportation Corp. The project is a proposed 278-mile rail line around Chicago, from Milton, Wis., to La Porte, Ind., to connect with existing Class I rail lines.
The railroad would travel through 11 counties, including Rock County in Wisconsin; Boone, Winnebago, Ogle, Lee, La Salle, Grundy and Kankakee in Illinois; and Lake, Porter and LaPorte in Indiana.
Five people signed up to speak at the meeting, and their concerns ranged from the route of the railroad and proximity to homes and schools to traffic congestion and what the railroad cars may transport.
“I first learned about it coming through Boone County when a reporter presented me the map, handed me a microphone and interviewed me and a couple hours later it was on TV. We had not earlier knowledge of it going through Boone County than anyone in this room,” Walberg said.
One of the commenters said she thinks information is being kept from the public.
“We feel we haven’t been informed,” said Susan Sack of Earlville in La Salle County.
“There’s been a lot kept from the public’s eye at this point. A lot of plans have been made without consulting the people who would be affected by it directly. We’re worried, and we’re looking for answers,” Sack said.
“This railroad is going to within 300 feet of my house, 275 feet of my yard. It’s going to cut my farm in half, and the Capron Grade School is going to be within 120 rods (about .375 mile) of this thing,” Nelson said.
“I think they ought to take some consideration of it being too close because this is probably going to be an ethanol/oil train, that’s what I think,” he said.
Juanita Hofstrom of Rock County, Wis., said her concern was the impact on her family’s dairy farm.
“I came here to represent is about eight families into which I married, who are all farmers and all of them are being affected by this particular project. It’s all family farms that have been in these particular families for four generations,” she said.
She said the proposed route would run right behind the barn on her farmette, where she milks 30 Jersey cows and raises about 30 head of young stock.
“They could graze on the hill behind the barn, and we could cut grass and hay for part of their feed. Now, all of that is going to stop ... They are not at all thinking of the agricultural programs in which I’ve invested,” Hofstrom said.
“It is going through an established neighborhood that we basically fled to that area to get away from Rockford. There are a lot of people from Byron and Stillman Valley — you will be hearing from us,” said Teresa Lapp of Stillman Valley.
Lapp garnered some of the loudest applause of the meeting when she said she and her family wanted to flee again.
“This thing is going to cost us money. What is this saying? To tell you the truth, I want to get the hell out of Illinois. And I will get out. My neighbors are here from Stillman Valley and every single one of them wants out. They want out of the state,” Lapp said.
Sharon Charlesworth of Garden Prairie said she worries about the impact of the trains on already congested east-west roads that commuters use to travel to and from jobs in and around Chicago, as well as the impact of up to 110 trains a day holding up emergency services.
“I know from experience freight trains can take an excessive amount of time to cross a road. How will these tracks affect Boone County? Disruption of medical services, police services and school bus routes? Disruption of commuter traffic? Disruption of agricultural livelihood?” Charlesworth said.
Great Lakes Basin Railroad filed a notice of intent on March 18 with the Surface Transportation Board, an agency within the direction of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
A series of meetings to gather public comment has been scheduled in the counties affected by the proposed railroad.
Jeannine Otto can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 211, or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Otto.