Durbin Applauds STB Decision to Further Investigate Canadian National in Light of Recent Train Derailment

Second audit of Canadian National’s EJ&E operations in less than 2 years

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today applauded the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for exercising its oversight authority to determine whether Canadian National is properly maintaining and upgrading the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern (EJ&E) Railway to handle hazardous materials and prevent derailments in light of a recent train derailment in an area near Elgin, Illinois.  In a letter to Canadian National, the STB explained that this is the second audit ordered of Canadian National’s operations since the company acquired the EJ&E Railway in January 2009.

“Time and time again, Canadian National has shown that it does not have the interests of Illinois residents in mind – often putting the railway’s bottom line ahead of communities along the EJ&E Railway,” said Durbin.  “The STB has a responsibility to ensure that railroads like Canadian National keep their promises and do everything possible to safely move freight through communities.  I commend the Board for continuing their vigorous oversight of Canadian National.”

On November 4, Durbin sent a letter to the STB requesting an investigation into Canadian National’s operation of the EJ&E Railway in relation to a recent train derailment.  The train, which derailed on November 3, throwing 22 train cars off the tracks and shutting down Metra operations in an area near Elgin, Illinois, was reportedly carrying hazardous material chemicals – sodium hydroxide and ferric sulfate.


In the decision to approve Canadian National’s acquisition of the EJ&E in January 2009, the STB established an oversight period of 5-years to monitor the operational and environmental impacts of the acquisition.  This oversight period was instrumental in exposing Canadian National’s dangerous underreporting of more than 1,400 blocked road-rail crossings in communities along the EJ&E.  This finding resulted in a fine of $250,000 against Canadian National last year, the first penalty of its kind ever levied by the STB.


With the acquisition of the EJ&E Railway, Canadian National aims to increase freight rail traffic along the line (from 5 to 20 trains per day).  Durbin has been working to address community concerns about blocked crossings that exacerbate traffic bottlenecks and challenge emergency responders’ mobility, rail safety, noise, air pollution from additional congestion, and interference with proposed Metra expansions.   Last year, Durbin announced the City of Barrington received a $2.8 million grant to fund the planning, designing and engineering of a grade separation at the U.S. Route 14 and EJ&E crossing through the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER II) program.


On December 5, Durbin and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) sent a letter to members of the STB regarding the Village of Barrington’s petition seeking additional mitigation efforts from the Canadian National.  In May, the Village commissioned a study regarding the impact of Canadian National’s increased use of the EJ&E line that bisects the community. The Village’s review found that the STB’s previous study contained several flaws in the methodology and provided results that diluted actual traffic congestion and traffic delay impacts.