CN submits application for "minor transaction" that endangers huge chunks of Amtrak and Metra systems?
Heads up from the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association:
City of New Orleans Route at Risk
Read their press statement (PDF) while I finish fixing some math and wonder why everyone in the world seems hell-bent on getting me to buy gasoline. More later.
Oh, and go laugh at this in the meantime, too, if you haven't already.
Edit: Okay, I think I (barely) understand what's going on here. From the page at MWHSR:
" The Canadian National Railway (CN) has submitted an application with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to purchase the Elgin Joliet and Eastern Railroad (EJ&E).
"The EJ&E circles Chicago, connecting all major railroads serving the Midwest. CN intends to use it as a bypass, making some trackage within the city surplus. The purchase will impact most passenger train routes serving the city, some positively and some negatively.
"The CN has stated that it hopes to abandon portions of this route within the City of Chicago after the purchase is completed. A new route will have to be found."
So CN wants to reroute their freight trains around Chicago, presumably to save time and money, so they'd like to purchase the tracks that would make this possible. Once they're done, they'd like to abandon the tracks in Chicago. If they abandon the tracks in Chicago, Amtrak will have to abandon the routes along CN's tracks that go to Chicago Union Station (because Amtrak doesn't run the railroads, they just run the trains on the railroads). And Metra's STAR Line proposal--whatever you think of it--would be killed for good because they'd be unable to run it anyway. Someone (i.e., the government) would then need to step in and make improvements to an alternate set of tracks out of Union Station so that Amtrak could run on them (or else just abandon the routes altogether, depending on where the political wind blows).
The passenger rail lobby wants to do this anyway (reroute the trains, of course, not cut them) because it would eliminate that obnoxious 20-minute backup maneuver out of Union Station, but CN abandoning the current route would make it an imperative. (And what do you know, the state's running out of money.) CN wants this to be classified as a "minor transaction" so they can speed up the process of buying EJ&E, but the passenger rail lobby (and myself) is peeved that several extremely popular Amtrak routes (that go downstate where my extended family lives) possibly disappearing might be considered "minor."
Do I understand correctly? Please let me know if I don't. I'm not a big train enthusiast, I'm just carless and I hate airports.
Note that this isn't really news: Illinois Transportation Issues covered the issue a couple of times back in autumn, but I wasn't paying much attention because--silly me--I don't care a fig about the STAR Line. (I always thought it was a stupid idea. Shouldn't they be using that money to, say, fix the platform at the 59th St. Metra Electric station? The one with the gaping holes over the Midway Plaisance that always smells like pee? Oh, nevermind, I don't need another lecture on capital vs. operations.) So forgive me for not jumping on the bandwagon (er, lounge car?) until now. It took a revelation of oh-crap-how-will-I-get-to-Carbondale to get on my radar. Will I never learn?
Anyway, MWHSR's press release claims the following:
Routes directly impacted
*Amtrak to Chicago, Champaign, Carbondale, Memphis and New Orleans (City of New Orleans and Illini/Saluki) ["I'm concerned because now this affects me!"]
*Metra’s Proposed STAR Line
Metra crossed by the EJ&E at grade ("indirectly impacted as additional freight traffic will be crossing those lines at grade")
*Milwaukee Road West
Amtrak routes with potential impacts ("may be impacted if the Illinois Central Corridor trains are rerouted")
*Chicago – Cleveland – New York
*Chicago – Pittsburgh – Washington
*Chicago – Indianapolis – Cincinnati
*Chicago – Rockford – Galena
[Do any of these actually exist yet, or are they still just proposals?]
I'm probably overreacting, but a heavily traveled Amtrak corridor at stake still seems to elevate the matter from a minor to a major one.
In other news that's not news, this.