In a last-ditch effort to try stopping the $31 billion Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railway merger, more than 100 people had arguments ready to go Tuesday night in front of Surface Transportation Board (STB) members who will vote on the merger at the end of September.
The STB’s Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) held a public input meeting at the River Center in Davenport, one of four public hearings on the merger being held this week across the United States. The OEA released a draft of their environmental impact study for the merger earlier this week, and wanted to hear the public’s thoughts on the impact of the merger before voting. One of the key takeaways of the draft is the increase in train traffic, expected to triple in the Quad Cities if the merger is approved.
Many Quad Cities residents had similar arguments against the merger at Tuesday’s meeting, including Camanche residents and city council members. Some of them argued that more train traffic would mean more congestion for vehicle traffic at railroad crossings, as well as more obstacles for emergency responders.
“A blockage of these crossings, which happens frequently already, results in delays of emergency services and residents’ travel,” said Andrew Kida, the Camanche City Administrator.
“A few days ago, an injured person in Bettendorf had to be rescued by a boat from Moline. The responders from Iowa could not get around a stopped train to administer aid,” said Dave Bowman, a Camanche City Council member. “Should this merger go through, stories like this will become more and more frequent.”
Others had arguments about the product many of the trains would be carrying: Crude oil. They suggested a train derailment, and the disaster that would come with it, would become a greater possibility.
“To jump to 22 or more trains per day, many carrying flammable shale oil from Canada, will present a clear and present danger to the thousands of people who enjoy our riverfront,” said Bill Gluba, a former Davenport mayor. “When one of these trains derails while passing through this area of mega public events, thousands of people could be killed. This is a disaster of monumental proportions just waiting to happen.”
“This plan is the keystone pipeline on wheels,” said Kida.
While many don’t want to see the merger happen, some are already preparing for it to be approved, including LeClaire resident Frank Grage. He says he lives right by the tracks, and hopes mitigations are put in place to lessen the impact increased train volume would have on his life.
“I’m hoping there are mitigation processes put in place such as speed limits, controlled crossings, and anything else that would be necessary to protect our quality of life,” Grage said.
The OEA will consider more in-person comments from people living in the Chicago suburbs all the way down to the Mexican border in the coming days and will also be accepting written and online input until September 26. But only time will tell if their comments succeed in stopping the merger.