Durbin, Chicago Delegation Members Meet With Illinois Tollway In Support Of Elgin O’hare Western Access Project

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with U.S. Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Brad Schneider (IL-10), and Danny Davis (IL-07) today met with Illinois Tollway Chairman Bob Schillerstrom to express their support for the Tollway’s petition to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) regarding their ongoing dispute with Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) over the Elgin O’Hare Western Access (EOWA) project.  The project creates new western road access to O’Hare International Airport along with a new western bypass around the airport.
“Despite years of planning and coordination with the Tollway on the EOWA project, CP’s decision to refuse further negotiations on the project’s next phase threatens to halt construction, risking a loss of local jobs and construction contracts, and potentially costing the Tollway an additional $200,000 per month for the delay,” said Durbin.  “We cannot allow this to occur.  I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House to move the EOWA project forward, as it remains vital to our regional, state, and national transportation network.”   
Last month, Durbin led a bipartisan group of Illinois Congressional leaders in a letter to STB Chairwoman Ann Begeman urging STB to move quickly to confirm the Tollway’s right to proceed with the next phase of the project.  He also met with STB Member and former Chairman Daniel Elliot to discuss the issue and express his support for the Tollway.
“Completing the EOWA is one of my top priorities. I’m very hopeful that CP will return to the bargaining table and work with the Tollway to reach an agreement. The construction season is almost upon us, and any delay is unacceptable. Western access to O’Hare would bring millions in economic opportunity to the 8th district and the rest of our state. This project will benefit the airport and the surrounding communities, and would have no impact on any train operations. I will continue to work with Senator Durbin, Secretary Chao, and all my Illinois colleagues to bring this project across the finish line,” said Krishnamoorthi.
“O’Hare is a powerful economic driver in the region, and it is imperative that we continue to support projects, like EOWA, that enhance access to this vital transportation hub,” said Quigley.  “After years of negotiations and millions of dollars in investment, we cannot afford any disruptions to EOWA’s construction schedule.  I will work with my colleagues to continue pushing for a timely completion of this project, which is critical in our efforts to ease congestion and get Illinoisans where they need to be safely and efficiently.”  
“I will be working with the Illinois Delegation and the Illinois Tollway under the leadership of Senator Durbin to overcome the barriers to moving the project forward.  It has been delayed far too long and its completion is a vital part of our region's economic growth,” said Davis.
Despite negotiating for years with the Tollway on the land transfer needed to complete two of the EOWA project’s final phases, CP pulled out of negotiations in 2015 and announced that it would no longer convey any property rights to the Tollway for the project.  As a result, construction on the project could be halted later this year.  To keep up with EOWA’s construction schedule and avoid a delay that could cost an additional $200,000 per month, the Tollway is asking the STB to intercede in the dispute and provide the Tollway with the authority to move forward with the project’s next phase, which involves the construction of bridges over CP’s rail tracks as part of the Western Access Interchange into O’Hare.
With $140 million in federal funding already invested in the project, CP’s unwillingness to work with the Tollway and other stakeholders on a path forward jeopardizes the significant benefits that the project will bring to the region.  The project, combined with the surrounding development, is expected to create as many as 65,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2040. Increased connectivity with other modes of transportation and dramatic reductions in congestion and delays will save drivers $145 million annually in time and fuel costs.