Thursday, May 5, 2016

Kankakee Area Residents continue protest against rail spur proposal


Residents continue protest against rail spur proposal

  • Lee Provost
  • May 3, 2016

Reddick resident Greg Schultz had to battle the Embridge pipeline a year ago as the company placed a pipeline through his farmland.

He now can look at a map of where the Great Lakes Basin Railroad is initially projected to travel and he said he will be able to watch trains traveling past his home from his living room.

"It was the pipeline last year. The railroad this year," he said before the start of Monday's community meeting in Morris, where Great Lakes Railroad managing partner Frank Patton answered questions from the public about the proposed $8 billion development.

"When I heard about it, the first thing I did was Google it. I saw where it was traveling and I thought was, 'You've got to be kidding me.'"

Before an audience of 350 to 400 mostly Grundy County residents, Patton explained his project — which runs about six miles west of Morris — and answered several questions raised by the audience.

Many answers drew jeers and shouts. Some gathered sarcastic laughter. Patton would not answer specifics about investors. He did acknowledge he could gain funding through the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing federal fund.

He was asked if he had foreign investors. No. He was asked about the negative impact this could have on farmers and he said he doesn't believe this will negatively impact them. In fact, he said, many properties would see their values increased.

Most in the audience weren't buying that.

He was asked how much farm owners would be paid for their property? He said $20,000 per acre. He was asked if there would be more Q & A sessions? Yes.

In Kankakee County, the rail line as it now exists, travels about a quarter-mile north of Bonfield and about five miles north and northwest of Limestone.

While many massive infrastructure projects have been pushed in the northern Illinois region in past years but never materialized, Patton said after his hourlong question and answer session he is committed to making this project a reality.

Projects like this one, he said, help put people to work.

"Hopefully, people understand this is not just Frank Patton and his friends trying to make a few bucks," he said. "We've been in a flat economy far too long. It's time to change that."

The proposed 278-mile line that would stretch from LaPorte, Ind., to Miltion, Wis., near Janesville, while passing just north of Manteno, is not scheduled to begin being built until 2018 at its earliest.

While the line would pass just north of Manteno, what the area would gain is a rail yard immediately east of Manteno and as presently proposed would consume more than 15,000 acres of farm land.

Afterward, Patton said the yard will remain in Sumner Township, but it could ultimately be much smaller.

He said the organization is looking to develop a rail line that will accommodate traffic for 50 years.

"What we are trying to do is come up with a toolbox where local companies want to expand and where others want to locate here," he said. "We have to turn the economy around. We've been in a flat economy far too long. It's time to change

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