The battle between Canadian National Railway and suburban homeowners has flared again.
A decade after CN won federal approval to acquire the former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway line in 2009, CN is seeking to lay a second track along four-plus miles of the line in Hoffman Estates and Elgin. Residents of those areas don’t like this plan, and are fighting back.
But it’s not just another case of NIMBY-ism. So please don’t cite that old “railroads were here first” argument.
Created in the 1800s, the EJ&E had been lightly used in latter years. Many suburbs sprung up along the 198-mile arc around Chicago. Homeowners literally had “the J” in their backyards, but didn’t mind too much. But CN, and it’s brash CEO, E. Hunter Harrison, realized the acquisition would be a faster and more efficient way to bypass Chicago’s congested rail hub.
So instead of a few trains a day, CN’s plan was to bring dozens of mile-long-plus double-stacks carrying Chinese-made goods through these communities. Suburbs like Barrington and Aurora fought the acquisition, saying these trains would tie up crossings, block emergency responders, and transport hazardous products like crude oil dangerously close to homes and schools. CN ultimately won regulatory approval from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.
CN, acting under its Wisconsin Central Ltd. Railroad subsidiary, has applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to construct the additional main line track…
Former Metra chairman and Chicago alderman Martin Oberman has been confirmed as a member of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, the independent regulatory agency that oversees the nation’s freight railroad industry.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Oberman’s nomination late Wednesday along with that of Patrick Fuchs, a senior staff member for the Senate Commerce Committee.
On Thursday, Oberman told the Chicago Transportation Journal that he expected it to be an interesting, even “momentous” time for the board. There are a number of pending issues that could have a significant impact on the railroad industry, he said.
The STB is the independent federal regulatory body responsible for economic oversight of the freight rail system. Run by a five-member bipartisan board serving five-year terms, the STB has regulatory jurisdiction over railroad rates, mergers, service, line acquisitions, new rail-line construction, line abandonment, and other rail issues.
“I think the board will tackle some of those issues to see if changes should be made,” Oberman said, acknowledging that he was eager to learn more about the industry.
“After 50 years of practicing law, I like to think I’m still a fast learner,” he said. “I’ve been studying a great deal since (being nominated last year). I still have quite a bit of a learning curve, but I look at this assignment the same way as taking on complex litigation. You have to learn the law pretty quickly.”
President Donald Trump has nominated former Chicago alderman and Metra chairman Martin Oberman to a Democratic seat on the U.S. Surface Transportation board, the independent regulatory agency that resolves railroad rate and service disputes and reviews proposed railroad mergers.
The likelihood of the nomination was first tipped locally June 27 by the Chicago Transportation Journal. The nomination was officially posted Thursday on the White House website.
If approved by the Senate, Oberman will fill the remainder of a five-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2023. The open Democratic seat was voluntarily vacated in 2017 by former Chairman Dan Elliott.
Oberman emerged from a group of at least eight Democrats who were being considered for the last vacancy on the five-member regulatory board, which is the successor to the Interstate Commerce Commission. The agency also has oversight of certain trucking, intercity passenger bus and pipeline matters.
Oberman’s nomination got a strong push last month from the Rail Customer Coalition, an association of trade groups representing major freight rail users.
Oberman, 73, an attorney who built a reputation as a reformer while an alderman on Chicago’s City Council, was named to Metra’s board by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in September 2013. He was elected chairman in 2014, serving until last October, when Norm Carlson took the post.
Oberman also also serves on the board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). Previously, he served as general counsel to the Illinois Racing Board. Oberman graduated from Yale University and earned his J.D. with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School, the…
Martin Oberman, the former Metra chairman and Chicago alderman, is being highly touted to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, the regulatory agency which has broad oversight of railroads.
The Rail Customer Coalition, an association of trade groups representing major freight rail users, is strongly urging that President Trump nominate Oberman to fill the final post on the five-member STB, a seat which must be filled by a Democrat.
Oberman’s name emerged from a list of at least eight Democrats who were being considered for the nomination.
Oberman, 73, an attorney who built a reputation as a reformer while on Chicago’s City Council, was named to Metra’s board by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in September 2013. He was elected chairman in 2014, serving until last October when Norm Carlson took over the post.
Reached Wednesday by phone — typically as he bicycled home from his law office — Oberman declined to comment on the possible nomination.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the nominations of two Republicans, Patrick Fuchs and Michelle Schultz, as STB members on April 25.
All the nominations must be confirmed by the full Senate.
The Rail Customer Coalition is comprised of 29 manufacturing, agriculture and energy industry trade groups. In a letter Tuesday to Trump, it said “a fully staffed STB is critical to both the continued growth of the economy as well as furthering…