STB Tells Canadian National to Explain Road Blockages

STB Tells Canadian National to Explain Road Blockages

Canadian National Railway needs to “explain the significant differences,” said the Surface Transportation Board, between CN’s monthly reports and an audit of street-crossing blockages in Chicago suburbs.

The monthly reports by CN are required as a condition for the STB’s approval of its 2009 purchase of the short line Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway.

CN’s plan in buying that line, which arcs around Chicago’s western side, was to shift significant amounts of train traffic over time out of its heavily congested tracks in central Chicago onto EJ&E’s little-used tracks.

Area suburbs bitterly fought the decision, and while many have since negotiated agreements with CN many others are still fighting its plan. They have complained that CN understated the congestion impact its trains are having on local roadway traffic.

The railroad reports blockages caused by stopped trains, in which road traffic is blocked for at least 10 minutes. But it does not report delays from slow-moving trains.

The STB said CN reported just 14 instances last November and December when stopped trains blocked crossings that long. However, a new report from a consultant the board hired “found 1,457 instances during that same period of crossings blocked for 10 minutes or more by stopped or slowly moving trains,” the agency said.

The board directed CN and consultant HDR to appear at an April 28 hearing on the issue. It also ordered CN to change its future monthly reporting, to include “all street-crossing blockages of 10 minutes or more, whether as a result of stopped trains or slow-moving trains.”

Contact John D. Boyd at jboyd@joc.com.