UPDATE: Chicago bypass proposal halted by STB

Regulatory panel says the railroad promoters' application was 'incomplete'
RELATED TOPICS: CHICAGO | MIDWEST | INFRASTRUCTURE
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GLBTMap
A screenshot of a map of the proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad that was intended to bypass Chicago congestion. The Surface Transportation Board rejected the parent company's application on Aug. 31 as incomplete.
Great Lakes Basin Transportation Co.
WASHINGTON — In a unanimous decision today, the Surface Transportation Board rejected an application by the Great Lakes Basin Transportation Co. to build a bypass railroad around Chicago.

In a decision published online today, the three-member panel that oversees railroads' finances and operations wrote that the company's application was incomplete almost entirely because of lack of financial information. But the board also said the company's lack of cash in the bank also played a role.

"[Great Lakes'] current assets of $151 are so clearly deficient for purposes of constructing a 261-mile rail line that the Board will not proceed with this application given the impacts on stakeholders and the demands upon Board resources," board members wrote.

With its decision, the board not only rejected Great Lakes' request for permission to purchase property and start construction, but also ended the environmental review process, and dismissed all objections to the proposed bypass railroad as moot.

However, a source close to the matter says the application was rejected "without prejudice" meaning that Great Lakes could re-apply in the future for the same or a similar project.

"Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc. is assessing its options with respect to the STB's decision today and will have no further comment on the decision," says Michael Blaszak, an attorney for the company.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, called the STB decision “good news.”

The group is among several organizations that have filed objections to the project with the STB. The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s most recent filing came just last week, and Learner said the STB decision reflected the group’s arguments.

“What the board has unanimously found is that the financial information provided by GLBT in its application is fundamentally flawed and inadequate,” Learner told Trains News Wire. “GLBT simply doesn’t have a sufficient balance sheet or sufficient assets to reasonably proceed with constructing a 261 mile rail line.”

Since the STB also discontinued the environmental review, the proposed project “will no longer waste the time and assets of the board, and the stakeholders will no longer be put through the meat-grinder of this process,” Learner said. “This case is closed.”

A representative of the Illinois Farm Bureau said he was "extremely pleased" regarding the Surface Transportation Board’s rejection of the Great Lakes Basin Rail Line, finding that the application is incomplete and the company’s assets insufficient to complete such a project.

“Despite evidence showing the rail line unnecessary, the proposed 261-mile project would have cut through prime Illinois farmland, disturbing nearly 5,000 acres for the rail line and another 14,700 acres for the railport in Manteno," said farm bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr.

UPDATE: Comments from local officials and Great Lakes. Sept. 1, 2017, 8:34 a.m. Central time.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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