Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chuck Sweeny: We can benefit from Great Lakes Basin railroad route


  • Boone County didn't want windmills. It didn't want the Great Lakes Basin railroad. The railroad's new route is through Winnebago County. We can take advantage of it. In a nation of 320 million people, are Hillary and Donald the best we can do for presidential candidates?


  • By Chuck Sweeny
    Staff writer

    Rockford Register Star

  • Chuck Sweeny is senior editor for the Rockford Register Star and |


  • Residents of Boone County have made it clear that they don't want windmills that generate electricity, and they don't want a railroad rollin' past their houses, farms and fields. They have been successful in halting both projects, a dubious distinction in my opinion.
    However, that's what the Boonian people don't want, and that's what they're not going to get. "Welcome to Boone County. Get off my lawn!"
    The Great Lakes Basin Transportation Co. project has been rerouted once again, away from Boone County to an alignment that takes it through Winnebago County west of Rockford, around Chicago Rockford International Airport, down to Rochelle and through Lee County.
    The private venture is an $8 billion project that seeks to make money by routing freight trains more than 200 miles from southern Wisconsin, around Chicagoland and into northwest Indiana to avoid the bottleneck caused by 1,200 trains a day snaking through a city where the tracks were built in the 19th century and are inadequate to handle the number and length of trains today.
    This includes 500 freight trains a day on six major railroads, all of which converge in Chicago, as well as more than 700 Metra, South Shore Line and Amtrak passenger trains. Great Lakes Transportation estimates that up to 25 percent of the freight isn't bound for Chicago, just passing through.
    Transcontinental container freight takes two days to get from the port of Los Angeles-Long Beach to Chicago, and up to two more days to get through that city's jumble of trackage before heading to its ultimate destination. This is not competitive with the newly widened Panama Canal, which can now handle bigger container ships.
    This project is not a done deal, of course. There are millions of Citizens Against Virtually Everything today, and progress is not CAVE's top priority.
    We in Winnebago County should welcome such a venture and take advantage of it. There are many opportunities for rail-oriented economic development — if we do it right.
    The new route takes the railroad close to Chicago Rockford International Airport and south to Rochelle. This is a growth corridor. The airport is the nation's 25th-busiest airfreight hub, and it is getting busier. If there were modern rail access, we'd be able to sell that as another piece in our transportation infrastructure, as Rochelle has done so spectacularly over the past 30 years with its city-built, city-owned, privately operated railroad on which Fortune 500 companies and other firms have built distribution centers.
    Rochelle has taken full advantage of the fact that both the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads have main lines going through the city; the city-owned railroad links them both; switching freight cars earns Rochelle as much as $1 million a year, and all the city has to do is collect the money.

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Is Boone County really out of consideration for GLB RR Project?


Listen to what one group says about Boone County



3 hrs ·

Attention Boone County Residents!!!

This alternative route is just that a second choice if the surface Transportation board feels the first choice which would include Boone County does not work then they would move to the alternative route which would be Winnebago County. This sounds like a tactic to get us to stop fighting please keep your signs up and continue to fight against the railroad no alternative routes are good. we want no Railroad. When sending letters two Representatives or anything else there is no good alternative route.

Citizens against "The Great Lakes Basin Railroad" project


Note that two Boone County alternatives are still proposed if the “new preferred route” runs into environmental problems.  SEE Alignment #291 and #292 below:


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The detailed response of Great Lakes Basis to the Surface Transportation Board is at:$file/EI-25375.pdf

Below is a map of the GLB’s preferred route.


What the H? Boone County sign curb raises free speech question


  • By Georgette Braun
    Staff writer

    Posted Sep. 23, 2016 at 4:41 PM
    Updated Sep 23, 2016 at 5:32 PM

    BELVIDERE — A lawyer who advocates for freedom of speech said today that it was wrong for Boone County to tell a Belvidere couple that their yard sign with the word "HELL" on it violated community standards.
    "Who gets to decide what is obscene, immoral or any of those other things?" said Don Craven, general counsel for the Illinois Press Association.
    But was the Boone County Building Department wrong to tell Richard and Terri Messling their sign in the 8300 block of Shaw Road violated a zoning ordinance? "I think so," Craven said.
    Craven's comments came after the Messlings were notified Thursday that their sign — it says "SLOW THE HELL DOWN, PLEASE" — violated the ordinance.
    The ordinance prohibits "signs which contain characters, cartoons, statements, works, or pictures of an obscene, indecent, prurient, or immoral character."
    "I know it when I see it," Craven said of obscene material, repeating U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's description of the difficulty of determining what constitutes obscenity, contained in a concurring opinion in a 1964 ruling. "But the government doesn't get to decide what is immoral."
    The county told the Messlings the sign would be acceptable if they took out the "ELL" in "HELL," which they did by placing tape over the three letters. If they hadn't fixed it, they could have been fined $500 for each day it was up after Sept. 27, the Messlings said.
    "This is right up there with burning the flag," Craven said. "It pisses people off. But it also provokes discussion, which is exactly what the First Amendment is all about."
    Richard Messling said he had erected the sign several years ago to get traffic to slow down to the 45 mph speed limit. He was asked to remove it the day after a Register Star story about the sign published online.
    Messling said this morning that he had been sitting by his phone taking call after call. "It's ringing all the time. People are 100 percent behind me," said Messling, a 70-year-old retired Chrysler worker. "They say the word 'hell' is in the Bible," so it can't be considered a swear word.
    "People are calling me up and wanting me to make them signs."
    Michelle Courier, Boone County state's attorney, said in an email today that the Messlings' case "had not yet reached my office to enforce, and at this point, will not reach my office as the property owner has since complied."
    Rockford has a zoning ordinance that addresses obscene signs. It says a sign would be in violation if the average person would find it obscene because it appeals to a prurient interest or depicts or describes in a "patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law" and if the work, "taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."
Bob Walberg, chairman of the Boone County Board, said the ordinance in the Messlings' case had been enacted years before he joined the board, but that its merits could be discussed.
"I would think if anyone cared to have this looked into, we would certainly try to accommodate them," Walberg said.
Georgette Braun: 815-987-1331;; @GeorgetteBraun

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