Chicago Suburbs Appeal CPKC’s Merger

It’s rare to see suburbia riled. These outer-ring neighborhoods err on the side of recluse, comfort, and Costco.

Suburban discourse is typically carried out over boxed wine at weekly book clubs while talking about the latest bits of neighbor gossip.

However, in light of rail’s most recent Class I merger, a group of suburban Chicago communities have banded together to appeal the federally-approved decision.

CPKC merger federally approved in April  

Last April, Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern officially merged and became one, unified, Class I railroad—Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC).

The Surface Transportation Board (STB), the federal body that oversees and approves industry moves of such magnitude, gave the two railroads the go ahead earlier this spring.

While the STB’s approval comes with countless conditions and a lengthy assessment period for CPKC, many are still vehemently opposed to the merger.

From competing railroads to now suburban Chicagoans, a line from all walks of life has formed, each with their own concerns resulting from CPKC’s conception.

Chicago suburbs file an appeal, wants the STB to revisit the decision

The particular qualm Chicago’s suburbs have against it is the environmental impact that the merger will have as more freight trains are expected to rumble through their area.

On May 11, a collation of nine communities filed a formal appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They argue that the merger violated several federal laws and was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and…not…supported by substantial evidence.”

This group of avengers for Chicago’s suburbs goes by the candid name, Coalition to Stop CPKC. Its endgame is having the STB conduct an additional study on potential environmental impacts CPKC operations will have in the Chicago area.

Itasca’s mayor, Jeff Pruyn, said in a statement, “The [STB] ruling shows us three things. It ignored our concerns for the quality of life…negative consequences on economic development…and most importantly, it ignored our concerns for safety.”

Itasca, IL is a village in DuPage County. The village is 25 miles northwest of downtown Chicago and is one of the communities apart of the appeal.

The STB has yet to comment on the communities’ appeal, however this is typical with any litigation that remains pending—as is the case with this one still.

Chicagoan concerns are not surprising as the city, dubbed as the railroad capital of the country, already stakes a claim as a busy gateway for freight.

The merger is expected to increase the number of freight trains by about eight a day on a shared CP and Metra (local passenger railroad) line.

These potential interferences to passenger rail have not just incensed local communities, but Metra and Illinois lawmakers as well.

Rival UP files its own appeal

Competing Class I railroad Union Pacific was quick on the trigger to file its own appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on May 3.

Like UP, other railroads fear CPKC will gain an immense edge in the market as its new network can offer single line options for transcontinental shipping. They’ve presented this as a negative for shippers as it could reduce competition and afford CPKC more control to drive up costs.

Meanwhile as the railroad’s appeal simmers on the STB’s stovetop of filings, UP has partnered with Canadian National to rollout a transcontinental service that looks to hold its own against CPKC’s capacity.

Pressures continue to mount on the STB

If appeals coming from all angles isn’t enough, the STB’s governing body itself is being grilled. Three activist groups addressed a letter to President Joe Biden to remove STB head Marty Oberman from chairmanship of the federal board.

The final domino may have been Oberman’s handling of the CPKC merger, but the letter scathes the overall state of the rail industry and blames the board’s front man as a failed leader who oversees it.

“Several crises in the freight rail industry (including high-profile derailments) and approval of ill-advised consolidation within the railway sector leads us to the conclusion that the STB is in sore need of new leadership at the highest levels. We ask you to immediately designate a new chair,” the letter said.

Final Thoughts

Just months after a devastating derailment in Ohio, the railroads are not exactly in the best spot from a PR standpoint.

Quality of life, safety, and environmental impacts are real concerns stakeholders, and now, the general public,  are surfacing against the industry.

Court battles aside, rail can’t ignore these issues. All of America is watching now.

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this topic or any others in domestic logistics. In addition, stay up to date with weekly headlines from both trucking and rail via our Road Map newsletter.

More blogs similar to this:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on google