Chesterton Tribune



Federal board nixes proposed rail line through Porter County

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The Surface Transportation Board of the United States (STB) on Thursday issued its decision to reject the Great Lakes Basin Transportation’s application to build a 261-mile railroad that would see up to 110 trains per day and cross through areas of southern Porter County.

The ruling, which appeared on the STB’s website, said that the GLBT “failed to provide the (STB) with accurate financial information upon which the Board can rely to make a determination on the transportation merits of the project.”

Also, federal law says that the STB may not grant authorization of construction if it is “inconsistent with the public convenience and necessity,” the ruling said.

The financial information provided in GLBT’s application “is fundamentally flawed,” the STB said, and that its reported assets of $151 are “so clearly deficient for the purposes of constructing a 261-mile rail line.”

The STB said it was unclear to them in the provided balance sheet reporting a negative net income of $1.2 million of what the difference between the GLBT’s assets, liabilities and stockholder equity. It called the application incomplete.

“The Board will not proceed with this application given the impacts on stakeholders and the demands upon Board resources,” the ruling said.

The STB also stated it is discontinuing the environmental impact study that would have needed to be completed before construction.

The proposal sparked outrage from many property owners in March 2016 when details emerged about it following notices of public scoping meetings set by the STB. Opposition groups were formed in Porter and Lake counties such as the Residents Against Invasion of Land by Eminent Domain (RAILED) and the Porter County Commissioners passed a resolution expressing disapproval of the project.

“The proposed rail line would also create noise, vibration and considerable safety concerns at all of the crossings,” said the resolution. The Commissioners said they “foresee no positive economic impact” for the county and many roads would have to be closed, making travel difficult for residents and farmers.

Starting from the west, the proposed line in Porter County would have entered just north of Hebron and then moved through Boone, Porter, Morgan and Washington townships, and crossed near the southern edge of Jackson Twp. as it went east into LaPorte County.

The endpoints for the complete rail line would have been Milton, Wis., and Kingsbury, Ind.

For its part, GLBT had stated on its website that the project would move freight outside of Chicago and permit trains to bypass the congested terminal areas. It would add capacity to accommodate anticipated future growth, it said.

The line would have cost roughly $8 billion, claimed GLBT, and would have been funded by private investors.

This spring, GLBT announced that it hoped to add a new Toll Road adjacent to the rail line, creating a 2,000-foot wide transportation corridor. That proposal was also decried by the Commissioners.

County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, whose property was one of those in the path of the railway, told the Chesterton Tribune after Thursday’s ruling that she commends the STB for acting on the concerns of the public.

“The STB did an excellent job working through this difficult issue. I think the people of Northwest Indiana had excellent representation across the board. Their voices, along with thousands of others across three states, were heard,” Blaney said.



Posted 9/1/2017




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