CP, Illinois re-enter settlement talks

Railroad, state agency tell Federal regulators they'll continue to talk about Bensenville Yard
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Canadian Pacific's Bensenville Yard as seen from the window of a commercial flight that just took off from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in September 2015.
Chris Guss
CHICAGO — Canadian Pacific and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority have agreed to resume negotiations in a dispute over access to the railroad’s Bensenville Yard, adjacent to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The two sides are fighting over the toll authority’s right to use part of the rail yard for a $3.4-billion highway project intended to enter O’Hare from the west and skirt the airport’s western border.

In a joint letter to the Surface Transportation Board, the toll authority and the railroad indicated they would “engage in direct settlement discussions first” before starting board-sponsored mediation.

The STB in May had urged both sides to agree to mediation by a June 15 deadline. The agency said such disputes “typically can be better resolved collaboratively by the private sector than by an imposed solution” by the agency.

CP said Tuesday it would not comment beyond what was stated in the letter. The toll authority did not respond immediately, but its executive director, Greg Bedalov, was quoted as saying, “If we can work it out before going to mediation, let’s work it out.”

The toll authority and CP requested that any such board-sponsored mediation, “if necessary,” be scheduled to start no earlier than August 14 and no later than September 12.

Both sides had been negotiating access for four years until CP broke off talks in April 2016, saying CP and its subsidiary, Soo Line, “have no intention of selling any interest in this property,” according to the toll authority’s filing with the STB.

The toll authority has asked the STB for a declaratory order clearing the way for it to condemn property in order to build a new toll road on bridges over CP’s rights-of-way and, eventually, through the Bensenville Yard.

CP argued that it will be “significantly and permanently damaged” by the toll authority’s efforts to force the railroad to grant easements on its right-of-way and allow construction of a new toll road over and, ultimately, through the rail yard.

The toll authority had asked the STB for “expedited consideration” of its request for a declaratory order because the highway construction project is currently under way and any delays could result in millions of dollars in additional cost to the public.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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