CP, Illinois official claim "significant step" in resolving Bensenville dispute

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CP_Bensenville_Lassen
Plans for an Illinois Tollway route over parts of Canadian Pacific's Bensenville Yard include a connecting road near this spot where the CP main line crosses under a Union Pacific connection.
TRAINS: David Lassen

Canadian Pacific and Illinois Tollway officials announced Wednesday they have taken a “significant step” — but gave no details — toward resolving a long-standing dispute involving access through CP’s Bensenville Yard, next to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority approved a “letter of intent” with CP at a special meeting of its board Wednesday. A joint statement indicates only that the letter “creates a framework” for a final agreement that parties hope to reach.

Contents of the letter were not immediately disclosed. A Tollway spokesman said the letter was not available. A CP spokesman referred Trains News Wire to the joint statement.

A Tollway resolution, however, said that the letter of intent “provides for the negotiation of binding agreements regarding the scope and responsibility of each party regarding construction of the [project] in and around the Bensenville Yard and the western access to O’Hare Airport. 

“Each party will voluntarily withdraw litigation initiated against the other and permit planning for and construction of the western access interchange and southern connection [of two toll roads] to advance.”

The dispute between the Tollway and CP has been playing out in federal court and before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board for several years. CP’s refusal to grant access to the Tollway over its right-of-way has blocked the Tollway’s progress in a $3.4 billion highway project.

The Tollway also seeks to purchase 35 to 40 acres of the Bensenville Yard for a new toll road, according to filings with the STB

CP has contended, however, that these “irreplaceable” properties must remain intact because they are crucial to maintaining the fluidity and efficiency of CP itself and the nation’s other railroads, according to CP filings. The Bensenville Yard and tracks are operated by CP’s subsidiary, Soo Line Railroad Co.

The full joint statement, issued by the authority, reads:

“The Illinois Tollway and Canadian Pacific Railway have taken a significant step toward making western access to and from O’Hare International Airport a reality, and a significant step toward resolving issues related to the routing of the I-490 Tollway through CP’s Bensenville Yard, by agreeing to a letter of intent today. The letter of intent creates framework for a final agreement that both parties are hopeful will be executed in the near future.”

To access O’Hare from the west, the Tollway is seeking easements to construct five highway bridges over CP tracks. The joint statement did not address this easement.

After CP lost a decision in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the Tollway took the fight before the STB. The Tollway has asked for a declaratory order clearing the way for it to condemn the property it is seeking. 

The STB has deferred making a decision on the matter, however, urging both sides to negotiate. The board offered to provide mediation.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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