Opponents would send railroad down the 'no-build' tracks
Residents in three states have issued a legal broadside against the proposed Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. railroad as the federal agency overseeing train service closes its public comment period.
An attorney for Rock Against The Rail, a Wisconsin group, has summarized arguments that the 278-mile rail line would be an environmental and safety hazard providing little or no benefit to the Midwest’s transportation infrastructure.
John Bryant and Lisa Cosgrove, of Railed, the organized opponents in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, said they support this final effort to stop Great Lakes. They said Great Lakes would divide local farms, create more dangerous train crossings and bring new risks of derailment and toxic chemical spills.
Frank Patton, founder and managing partner of Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc., said the 18-page “Motion for Adoption of No-Build Alternative” is another rehash of the same objections Northwest Indiana groups have made to the Surface Transportation Board during months of public meetings and written statements.
Patton said the “no build” alternative is the standard request made by rail line opponents. He said the Transportation Board also could grant Great Lakes’ application with a range of conditions that could make the project financially feasible.
The public comment period was scheduled to end Friday. The board already has received more than 3,500 comments. The newly filed motion lists 80 government agencies, schools, elected officials and citizen groups opposed to the project, including 24 in Indiana.
Cosgrove said the motion also wants Patton to file a construction application that would specify exactly where the rails would go across Northwest Indiana. “Even now he says it is subject to change. Our lives are just torn apart by this,” she said.
The Surface Transportation Board has asked Patton to provide, by Aug. 29, alternative routes and detailed explanations of why they would more or less reasonable than the one Great Lakes prefers.
Patton has proposed a private $8 billion train line that would loop from LaPorte, west to Milton, Wisconsin, to offer freight trains a route around congested lines around Chicago.
The rail line could result in the closure of some rural roads and eventually allow up to 110 trains daily.
The newly filed motion states the tracks would split 728 fields, many of them belonging to active farms that would have to cross the 200-foot-wide right of way with farm implements and livestock. The tracks also would create 200 new grade crossings.
It states rail carriers have expressed indifference to the proposed rail lines and that improvements to existing lines around Chicago will allow them to accommodate heavier traffic.