Saturday, May 7, 2016

Chicago’s Channel 32 reports: Controversy surrounds proposed rail line

By: Larry Yellen


Posted:May 06 2016 09:53PM CDT

Updated:May 06 2016 10:44PM CDT

An eight-billion dollar plan to steer freight trains around Chicago and through rural areas downstate is generating a lot of fear and anxiety among residents in its path.

The Great Lakes Basin Railroad would run roughly between Milton, Wisconsin and LaPorte, Indiana.



Controversy surrounds proposed rail line: 'We were devastated'



Controversy surrounds proposed rail line: 'We were devastated'

An eight-billion dollar plan to steer freight trains around Chicago and through rural areas downstate is generating a lot of fear and anxiety among residents in its path.

FOX 32’s Larry Yellen talked with the man behind the proposal, and with farmers who fear its impact.

“Our reaction was stunned. We were stunned that this was coming right through our back yard,” said Valinda King.

King and her husband Jeff have a 120 acre farm in Kankakee County. About a month ago, they learned that a proposed railroad will split their farmland in half, which is the same for their neighbor, Kevin Wancho.

“We were devastated. Our family and my wife’s family has had this ground for ever and ever,” Wancho said.

The proposed rail line is called Great Lakes Basin Railroad. It would run almost 250 miles from Northwest Indiana to Southwest Wisconsin, bypassing Chicago. It's the brainchild of Chicago businessman Frank Patton, who ran a successful software company, learned a lot about networks and says he's applying that to railroads.

“We take the traffic that's going through the city, that doesn't have to go into the city. It goes around,” Patton said.

GLBT officials say it's slow moving trains that illustrate the need for another route around the city. They say a freight train leaving Los Angeles takes 48 hours to get to Chicago, and then another 30 hours to make it through the city.

“Everybody wants to stick it out in the country where nobody lives. Well, we live here,” said Keith Mussman, the president of the Kankakee County Farm Bureau.

Mussman says the railroad will destroy farms, drainage systems and local lifestyles. 

“They're saying a 100 to a 110 trains a day. Every fifteen minutes. On double tracks,” King said.

“If we have 110 trains a day, I will make an offer to acquire Australia,” Patton said.

Patton is offering $20,000 an acre for farmers willing to sell. Plus, farmers willing to put a rail spur on their property, he says,   would have access to local rail service. He admits, though, some people might have to get used to seeing trains outside their kitchen windows.

"You're gonna have a train. So some people think that's just terrible, one guy told me, "I love looking at the trains,” Patton said.

He also says that while the railway would be privately owned, it benefits the entire country. Some farmers don't buy that.

“I don't think it's for the larger good, I think it's for the larger pocketbook. I think that's the whole thing behind this, that someone's going to try to make some money off of it,” Wancho said.

Patton says the Federal Surface Transportation Board has put the proposal on its key project's list. He sees that as good sign, but the rail line is still far from being a done deal.

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Belvidere's $2.7 million in streetscape improvements are underway



By Susan Vela
Staff writer

Posted May 6, 2016 at 4:25 PM
Updated May 6, 2016 at 5:52 PM

BELVIDERE — Traffic has moved slower than usual in the eastbound lanes of State Street as construction workers tear up crumbling brick pavers.
This week crews stamped concrete as part of $2.7 million in streetscape improvements, the city's first major road renovations since the Great Recession.
Local shop owners don’t seem to mind the approaching summer of construction toil. They’re hoping the changes will make for better business.
“It’s great to see the pavers and the repaving of State Street,” said Jarid Funderburg, executive director of Growth Dimensions, the agency driving economic development efforts in Belvidere and Boone County. “It’s going to do a lot for the curb appeal for the State Street shops. It’s something that’s needed, and Mayor (Mike) Chamberlain is getting it done. It is our downtown.”
The Belvidere City Council approved the streetscape projects to be financed with utility tax revenues as part of an $18 million spending plan in April.
The work includes:
— At a $700,000 price tag, Alliance Contractors Inc. of Woodstock will continue to replace brick pavers with stamped concrete and install ramps that comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act at intersections between the railroad and Madison Street through the end of this month.
— Northern Illinois Service Co. of Rockford will rebuild Columbia Avenue and Aspen Court with new pavement, curb and gutter, water mains and sidewalks through July for $1.5 million.
— No bids have been awarded yet, but construction workers also will repave State Street from Madison Street to Logan Avenue for an estimated $500,000, beginning in July and lasting for about a month.
Becky Tobin, the city’s budget and finance officer, said the projects were placed on hold for years because of uncertainties over budgeting. But this was the year city officials demanded improvements.
State Street was last paved in 2000, according to Public Works Director Brent Anderson.
“The economic activity for our city has improved so that we can do more capital improvements,” he said. “It will certainly improve the aesthetics in the downtown area.”
Today, there were signs, detours and one lane of traffic on eastbound State Street, between East Perry and Pleasant streets. The road hassles typically vanish during the night hours.
“We do have another exit and entrance out the back way,” said Robyn Lanning, pharmacy technician at O’Brien & Dobbins Pharmacy. “All improvements would be great for the downtown area.”

Gary Simon, The Brick Cafe and Gallery owner at 615 S. State St., said construction workers ripped out the pavers in recent years and replaced them with stamped concrete.


A lot of people wanted to know what was happening, and, as a result, business may have even improved.

“It looks much nicer, and it doesn’t crack,” Simon said. “It’s looking good.”

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