Durbin: STB Taking a Closer Look at Canadian National in Light of Recent Train Derailment

Surface Transportation Board working with federal agency to determine if Canadian National is ensuring safety and proper maintenance of tracks

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – In a letter to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Surface Transportation Board (STB) confirmed that they are closely monitoring Canadian National’s operation of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern (EJ&E) Railway and working with the Federal Railroad Administration in light of a recent train derailment.  The train which was reportedly carrying hazardous material chemicals – sodium hydroxide and ferric sulfate – derailed on November 3, throwing 22 train cars off the tracks and shutting down Metra operations in an area near Elgin, Illinois.


“Canadian National is required to properly maintain and upgrade the EJ&E Railway to help avoid accidents like the recent train derailment that shut down passenger service and renewed concerns about the increased transportation of hazardous materials through communities around Chicago,” said Durbin.  “With unprecedented oversight authority until 2013, the Surface Transportation Board should be doing everything it can to ensure the safety of the EJ&E Railway for passengers and residents.  I am glad they have chosen to exercise that authority today.”


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.