What is the position of Boone County on the Great Lake Basis RR? It appears that Chairman Walberg wants to “eat his cake and have it too”.
To see the actual RMAP letter go to: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/boone/Board.nsf/files/AASMCE5570B5/$file/RMAP%20Great%20Lakes%20Basin%20Railroad%20Letter_201606100948.pdf
By Adam Poulisse
Posted Jun. 10, 2016 at 7:58 PM
ROCKFORD — A regional planning organization has put its support behind the proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad, but says more information on the project is needed.
Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning, better known as RMAP, voted 5-0-1 Thursday to send a letter to the Surface Transportation Board that supports the rail line.
"We agree with the project concept," the two-page letter drafter today reads, "but do not have enough information from GLBRR to fully understand how the current route will affect the existing transportation, agricultural land use, and environmental asset-mapping plans for the region."
Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain, Machesney Park Village President Jerry Bolin, Loves Park Mayor Darryl Lindberg, Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen and Rockfort City Administrator Jim Ryan — in Mayor Larry Morrissey's stead — all approved the letter. Boone County Board Chairman Bob Walberg abstained.
The two-page letter states that the 278-mile railroad, which would transport cargo around Chicago traffic and include a spur to the Chicago Rockford International Airport, would address key economic development needs in the region.
It also states the agency is "particularly interested in discussing adjustments to the proposed route that garner the largest cross-section of public support."
"We believe the final route needs to take into account the many interests that benefit from and can be affected by a project of this scale," the letter reads.
Though Walberg voted to approve a letter of opposition during a Boone County Board meeting last month, he abstained from Thursday's vote because the letter was more opinion-based, whereas the County Board's opposition was based on research and a series of meetings that collected public input, he said.
"I felt it's what I should do," Walberg said. "I'm real sensitive about it and wouldn't want to abuse my position being chairman of the County Board."
The railroad, in its current incarnation, would cut directly through Boone County and disrupt personal property and farmland. It's received staunch opposition from officials and citizens alike, some of whom have banded together to let their voice be heard.
Cathy Ward, a District 2 board member, said she disagreed with RMAP drafting the letter without having all the information.
"I am very concerned that RMAP ... would vote to support this railroad even though they need more information. If they need more information, why not wait until they had all the information to vote on this."
Morrissey, who was out of town, said his administration generally "favors a route through Winnebago County, as opposed to the proposed Boone County route."
"We believe this would create better economic opportunities for our area as it would more directly connect with our airport and other industrial opportunities," he said via email.