- Great Lakes Basin Transportation (GLBT) replied to opposition groups seeking rejection of its proposed 271-mile freight railroad from Northwest Indiana to southeast Wisconsin, NWI reported Tuesday.
- Opponents argue GLBT does not provide adequate proof of its ability to finance the project, as it has not named the financiers of the $2.8 billion project. In addition, the opposition claims there is a lack of user interest for the proposed rail line.
- In its reply, GLBT says existing freight traffic around Chicago shows the need for a new rail line, and regulations do not require projects for new railroads to disclose their investors.
In May 2017, GLBT proposed building a $2.8 billion, 261-mile freight railroad line bypassing Chicago's overcrowded interchange. The line would begin in Milton, WI, running past three cities in IL before reaching the route's end in La Porte, IN. A total of 36 interchanges would permit 110 trains a day to bypass Chicago.
The company says the proposed railroad would benefit shippers by providing a cheaper mode of transportation around Chicago, thereby also reducing truck traffic. However, the transportation company has faced a series of hurdles as citizens align with competitors to protest a new railroad. In June, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific — both of which have assets in the region — said they would be "disinclined" to use the bypass.
Residents are also decrying the impact of the new project on everything from lost trucking jobs, to distressed or reduced dairy herds. As usual, eminent domain and the number of rail crossings (36) were also raised as citizen concerns in comments, due to their impact on traffic and livelihoods. One colorful comment renewed calls for GLBT to disclose the investors, saying, "STB's approval of this project will allow land to be taken by eminent domain for foreign investors' profits! NO BUILD!!"
Given the industry and citizen opposition, it would not be surprising if the project took years to complete due to legal challenges. But first, GLBT is concerned with securing a permit to construct. For the moment, GLBT's reply insists the company has fulfilled all the minimum requirements to build a new rail line. Next, the STB must review the reply and additional comments to make the choice.