E. Hunter Harrison, president and chief executive officer of CN, said today it’s time that public attention in the Chicago area refocuses on the broad rail transportation efficiency and environmental benefits of the Company’s planned acquisition of the principal lines of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Company (EJ&E).
Harrison said CN is mindful of community concerns about the EJ&E transaction, but believes local debate to date may have been too centered on the potential adverse impact on some communities when a broader examination of the transaction’s public interest benefits for the greater Chicago region is warranted.
Harrison said: ‘CN’s acquisition of the major portion of the EJ&E will be the latest in a series of progressive solutions designed to improve the efficiency of its operations as well as the flow of general rail traffic through the greater Chicago area. CN in recent years has developed innovative routing protocols with other major carriers to divert some rail traffic previously interchanged in Chicago to other locations across the central United States. But more needs to be done if Chicago is to play its role as a critical rail transportation hub for the country.’
By dispersing its trains along the ‘J’ arc on the periphery of the Chicago metropolitan area, CN’s transaction stands to generate broad public interest benefits. It will:
- Increase the speed of commerce through the region by cutting rail congestion in the inner core of Chicago;
- Provide increased transportation capacity in the Chicago region at time when demand for rail transportation is expected to rise;
- Generate significant environmental benefits, including improved rail safety, for millions of people in the greater Chicago area because of shorter transit times resulting in fewer locomotive emissions, fewer blocked crossings and fewer idling trains;
- Provide a head start for the Chicago Region Environmental Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE), with CN committing US$400 million of private-sector investment to create capacity on the Chicago rail network and by removing CN rail operations from downtown Chicago, and
- Make it possible for the City of Chicago to realize its goal of seeing CN trains vacate the St. Charles Air Line more quickly than under CREATE’s Central Corridor scenario so that redevelopment plans for the area may progress, including the site’s use in connection with the City’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. The St. Charles Air Line is a key railroad link that starts at approximately 1600 South and the Chicago River. It proceeds east for seven-tenths of a mile, terminating at Michigan Avenue, where it curves south under McCormick Place and joins another CN line. This area has been targeted for significant redevelopment.
Harrison said CN recognizes that the transaction will require change in a number of communities along the EJ&E. That’s why the company has been engaged since announcing this proposed acquisition in a dialogue with affected communities, and is actively supporting the United States Surface Transportation Board’s environmental review of the transaction.
Starting in January 2008, CN will start the next phase of its community outreach program, with experts hired by the company helping it to prioritize road crossing and other environmental issues with affected communities.
Harrison said: ‘CN is seeking a constructive dialogue with key stakeholders to find practical means of implementing the transaction in ways that balance the specific needs of communities with the Chicagoland’s need for a cleaner, safer environment and a more efficient rail transportation network. ‘The merits of our EJ&E transaction are compelling ’ compelling for commerce, transportation efficiency and the environment of the greater Chicago region. We are ready to work with communities, and in turn hope for their cooperation to achieve a timely review of this proposed transaction.’ CN and United States Steel Corporation announced Sept. 26, 2007, a