Norfolk Southern view on proposed line unchanged
An official with Norfolk Southern railroad calls projections for train traffic on the proposed Great Lakes Basin Transportation freight train line "in error" and reiterates it won't participate in the proposed project in a Friday filing with the federal Surface Transportation Board.
GLBT said in a Nov. 10 filing with the federal agency that its proposed three-state freight train route between Milton, Wis., and LaPorte County could see up to 85 trains a day in some spots once the line is fully up and running.
An official with Norfolk Southern is calling those projects inaccurate if they include the railroad's participating.
"Norfolk Southern reiterates its prior message to the STB that it has no plans to use the proposed route," wrote Aarthy Thamodoran, an attorney for the railroad. "Rather, Norfolk Southern anticipates that it will continue to use either the direct routes that Norfolk Southern currently operates or, for that matter, any of the numerous alternatives currently available to it.
"Therefore, to the extent the projections that Great Lakes Basin Transportation made in its Nov. 10 response include Norfolk Southern traffic, those projections are in error."
Thamodoran also notes that Norfolk Southern did not provide any input into the rail traffic projections made by GLBT.
Norfolk Southern submitted a letter in late May to the STB stating it already has bypasses around Chicago and was not inclined to use the proposed route.
GLBT's projections were based on the freight train line capturing a percentage of the rail shipments that now move through Chicago, Mike Blaszak, an attorney for GLBT, said in an email.
"Ultimately, the companies that ship freight on the railroads determine how their traffic is routed. Our train frequency projections were based on the assumption that the new railroad would carry a certain percentage of the rail shipments that currently move through Chicago to other destinations, and that the volume of rail traffic would grow with the U.S. economy," he said.
"We are working to demonstrate to the railroads and shippers how our project will make the rail network more efficient and competitive, to everyone's benefit."
GLBT proposes an $8 billion, privately funded freight train line to serve as a bypass for six Class 1 railroads around Chicago's congested rail yards.
In addition to Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific also has said it would not participate in the project. In a March 21 Chicago Tribune article, a Union Pacific official said the railroad determined in July 2014 that it was not interested in moving forward with a discussion on GLBT.
"We have repeatedly communicated this position to Great Lakes Basin's leadership team," Union Pacific spokeswoman Calli Hite said at the time. "Union Pacific is focused on several major public-private partnerships, including CREATE, which will benefit the region and enhance efficiency for Chicago-area and regional railroad operations."
In June, officials with the remaining four Class 1 railroads that would be served by the project told the Post-Tribune they were not involved in GLBT's proposal or had no comment, though one of those railroads acquired a rail line that already provides a bypass around Chicago and the other furloughed 4,600 employees in the spring because of a drop in cargo traffic.
Amy Lavalley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.