Great Lakes Basin asks for more time for railroad application
- Andrew Steele firstname.lastname@example.org, (219) 933-3241
- Mar 1, 2017 Updated 59 min ago
Great Lakes Basin Transportation is asking the federal government to wait until at least April 30 to resume an environmental review of the freight railroad the company hopes to build as a bypass around Chicago.
The Surface Transportation Board's Office of Environmental Analysis suspended the environmental review on Dec. 13, 12 days after GLBT requested it be allowed to focus on completing its official application to build and operate the railroad.
The OEA granted the request with the requirement that the company provide an update on Feb. 28.
GLBT Chairman Frank Patton did that Tuesday, in a letter to OEA Director Victoria Rutson. Patton wrote: "Great Lakes Basin continues to prepare its application for authority to construct and operate a new line ... We are preparing the required application content for project overview, information on the proposal, operational data, and financial data. We are holding discussions with potential customers, shippers, and other parties who may file statements in support of the application."
Patton wrote that he expects those discussions to last several more weeks. He asked that the suspension of the environmental review continue until April 30, "at which time we will either file the application or provide another status report."
The railroad would run about 260 miles from the LaPorte area through southern Porter and Lake counties, around Chicago and into southeast Wisconsin.
The environmental review process ultimately produces an Environmental Impact Statement, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. The application GLBT is preparing provides more detailed financial and operational information.
"The application likely will provide information that will help the accuracy of OEA’s NEPA review," Rutson wrote in a letter to Patton on Dec. 13. "I must note, however, that stopping and starting the NEPA review process often adds time and expense to the process and increases the burden on all stakeholders."
The suspension hasn't stopped residents opposed to the project from continuing their activity. Six citizen groups, including RAILED from Northwest Indiana, submitted in February a statement to the STB in the form of a motion prepared by Chicago attorney Thomas McFarland.
Describing the Great Lakes Basin Railroad as a "boondoggle" and "folly," the motion's main claims revolve around the question of whether there would be demand for the railroad.
It points out two of the major freight railroads have said publicly they would not use GLBT's railroad, and the others likely would not; a partnership among federal, state and local governments and major railroads, called the Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program, or CREATE, is alleviating congestion in Chicago and making Great Lakes Basin unnecessary; and, the Chicago Integrated Rail Operations Center, or CIROC, established by freight haulers in 2015, is also alleviating congestion.