CN, CP to argue Chicago interchange dispute before federal regulators

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WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board has ordered Canadian National and Canadian Pacific to participate in oral arguments next month to settle their simmering dispute over the location of their interchange in Chicago.

In a decision late Friday, the board directed CN and CP to participate in an Aug. 6 oral argument in Washington. The STB “expects the parties to be prepared to discuss their arguments and evidence and respond to questions from the board.”

The railroads informed federal regulators earlier this month that the board-sponsored mediation had failed to resolve their dispute and asked the STB to step in.

CN and CP began discussing an interchange move last year. Talks failed, however, and CN aimed to cancel the current interchange agreement on May 11, then move the interchange from Spaulding, not far from CP’s Bensenville Yard, to CN’s Kirk Yard in Gary, Ind.

CP objected, and the board ordered the railroads to maintain the Spaulding interchange while the dispute headed to mediation.

In a July 12 letter notifying regulators that mediation was unsuccessful, CN asked the board to establish an interim agreement that shifts interchange to the Belt Railway of Chicago’s Clearing Yard.

CN also asked the board to set a schedule for proceedings where the railways could present evidence that could help regulators determine which railroad will have to pay BRC for interchange-related switching fees.

The railroads continue to interchange an average of 83 cars per day at Spaulding.

CN says interchanging with CP at Spaulding ties up its increasingly busy single-track main line and blocks area grade crossings. Moving the interchange, CN says, would reduce delays to the average of two dozen trains per day that operate over its Chicago-Winnipeg main.

In a July 12 email to CP, CN proposed shifting the interchange to Clearing and said it would accept the terms CP established in a May 6 letter to the STB: CN will pick up the switching fees for cars it delivers to Clearing while regulators sort out who should ultimately pay the tab.

But CP, in a July 19 letter to the STB that was posted on the agency’s website Monday afternoon, says no such agreement exists.

“Contrary to CN’s suggestion, there is no agreement between CP and CN as to interchange at Clearing either on an interim or on a long-term basis,” CP’s letter states.

While CP says it agrees in principle to moving interchange to Clearing, legal nitty-gritty needs to be worked out, including terms and length of the interchange agreement, keeping Spaulding as a backup interchange location, and which railroad would shoulder costs if interchange were ultimately moved away from Clearing in the future.

UPDATE: Additional information from filed with the Surface Transportation Board. July 22, 2019, 3:24 p.m. Central time.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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