EDITORIAL: Where's support for rail?
After months of public comment on the proposed $8 billion railroad that would ring the Chicago metro area, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board has its work cut out for it.
There were more than 3,000 comments from property owners, railroads, elected officials, schools, advocacy groups, opposition groups and communities through which the 278-mile Great Lakes Basin Transportation rail line would run.
Frank Patton, chairman of GLBT, has promised sweeteners to the public, including free electricity to homes along the route and a promise to pick up farmers’ rail cars of grain, if the farmers build a rail spur. That doesn’t seem to have resonated with the public.
Nor has the acknowledgement that with the volume of freight increasing, and the Borman Expressway unable to be expanded, there must be another way to keep that freight moving through the Chicago freight bottleneck.
We have seen before the recalcitrance of major railroads in accepting new routes, including the free tracks skirting the newly expanded Gary/Chicago International Airport runway. Getting that new route to be accepted, at no cost to the railroads, took nearly a decade. And unlike the runway project, Patton’s GLBT would change the competitive landscape by, in effect, building a toll road for trains.
To many, this project brings to mind the idea of a third airport for the Chicago area. That concept, put forth by the Federal Aviation Administration, has been talked about for years, with airport plans put forward in Peotone, Gary and elsewhere, but airlines haven’t committed to serving a third airport.
Which railroads want this new rail line built? Which shippers want it?
And what long-term benefits, after the initial construction, would this railroad bring to Northwest Indiana and the rest of the route?
We have heard of alternate routes, including one that would avoid Porter County with the addition of new track near Wanatah and using existing rail routes south of the county.
What we haven’t heard much of is support for the rail project.