Federal board: Transportation company must reveal shareholders for new railroad through Rock County
A proposed 261-mile rail line through Rock County hit a temporary snag Friday after a decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board.
The board directed Great Lakes Basin Transportation to share more details in its application to build a new railroad. The company also must reveal its 10 principal shareholders after the board denied a request for confidentiality.
The board disagreed with Great Lakes Basin's position that a list of stakeholders was “highly confidential” and contained “proprietary and commercially sensitive information.” Great Lakes Basin had said revealing its shareholders could damage the company, but it did not justify why, the board wrote in its decision.
The rail company must file a public list of stakeholders by Friday, June 9, according to the document.
Great Lakes Basin President Frank Patton said Friday he had received the Surface Transportation Board's decision and was studying the document. The company will respond soon, he said.
Mirjam Melin, co-founder of local opposition group Rock Against the Rail, said if the railroad line is eventually approved, landowners along the route have a right to know who is taking over their property.
She applauded the board's decision to reveal shareholders because it showed opposition groups were being heard, she said.
Great Lakes Basin's current proposed route begins in Milton and cuts between Janesville and Beloit. It then turns south into Illinois, loops around Chicago and ends in Indiana.
The company submitted its application to build the rail line May 1. Patton has told The Gazette the rail line will allow trains to avoid congestion in Chicago.
But the Surface Transportation Board believes the application still lacks details.
Great Lakes Basin did not give the board a full list of cities and counties that would be served by the rail line. It also must file a balance sheet and income statement along with other paperwork, according to the document.
The rail company had not provided any financial information because it has not yet conducted business operations. But Great Lakes Basin has retained a contractor for an environmental study, who should appear on a balance sheet as a liability, the board wrote.
Great Lakes Basin must finalize its application by June 22.
Melin believes the application's missing details show the company is "not ready for prime time.”
The board also simplified how opposition groups such as Rock Against the Rail can file legal responses. The groups must give copies of their responses to the board and Great Lakes Basin but not all parties of record, which would have included all citizens who have submitted public comments.
Once Great Lakes Basin submits the missing information, opposition groups will have an undetermined amount of time to file new responses.
Rock Against the Rail does not want the railroad, Melin said.
“By no means is the fight over. This is not the end of it,” she said. “These are just little things along the way that tell us we are being heard and what we asked for is being considered.”