Durbin Urges Surface Transportation Board To Closely Monitor Rail Capacity Ahead of Expected Record Harvest
DURBIN URGES SURFACE TRANSIT BOARD TO CLOSELY MONITOR RAIL CAPACITY AHEAD OF EXPECTED RECORD HARVEST
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today sent a letter to Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Dan Elliot asking him to monitor possible impacts to rail service capacity in Illinois ahead of an expected record harvest this crop season. Given Illinois’ extensive rail network, Durbin asked the STB to prepare for any impacts on rail capacity or delays in service that could affect Illinois’ farmers and producers as they look to ship their crops across the country.
“I strongly encourage you to pay particular attention to how Illinois, our shippers, farmers and communities will be impacted by the anticipated record agricultural crop. Given Illinois’ extensive rail network and the fact that one-quarter of all freight moves through Chicago, it is appropriate for the STB to encourage railroads to report any areas that could become chokepoints in meeting the need of freight and passenger rail users,” Durbin said.
Last week, Durbin convened meetings in Champaign and Chicago with Chairman Elliott, Amtrak and local officials to discuss rail service delays and rail safety issues. Durbin called for renewed efforts to end rail service delays in Illinois for passenger trains. He also discussed additional steps the STB can take to alleviate safety concerns local officials have about the increased number of rail cars carrying crude oil and ethanol across the country.
Additionally, Durbin met with Carbondale officials last week to hear their concerns about Amtrak delays, caused largely by freight train interference along lines operated by Canadian National (CN). Persistent Amtrak delays, caused largely by CN’s freight train interference, are threatening the success of passenger rail in Illinois and have made the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale line the worst performing state-supported train in the nation.
The full text of today’s letter to the STB is attached and available below.
August 27, 2014
Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III
Surface Transportation Board
395 E Street, SW
Washington DC 20423
Dear Chairman Elliott:
I am writing regarding the Surface Transportation Board’s upcoming hearing in North Dakota to discuss rail service issues. This hearing comes on the heels of your visit to Illinois with me and I would like you to incorporate your experiences into this hearing.
We discussed many issues while you were in Illinois, but a pervasive concern of all stakeholders was the impact of massive increases in crude oil being shipped by rail on communities, shippers and Amtrak users. You explained these issues have been exacerbated by last year’s severe weather and record harvest.
While the winter weather is not predictable, the most recent USDA crop report forecasts record soybean and corn crops along with very strong production in other commodities this year. The record crops will only increase the already strained capacity of our rail lines in the Midwest. Illinois' access to our water infrastructure has, to date, minimized the impact of the existing rail congestion, but we are already hearing from agriculture producers that are concerned they may not be able to secure adequate rail capacity - either in the form of cars, engines, or physical rail - to move their crop into the market.
I strongly encourage you to pay particular attention to how Illinois, our shippers, farmers and communities will be impacted by the anticipated record agricultural crop. Given Illinois’ extensive rail network and the fact that one-quarter of all freight moves through Chicago, it is appropriate for the STB to encourage railroads to report any areas that could become chokepoints in meeting the need of freight and passenger rail users.
Thank you again for you and Board Member Begeman’s visit to Illinois last week. I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure Illinois rail network is the safest and most efficient system in the country.
Richard J. Durbin
Cc: Ann Begeman, Board Member STBDeb Miller, Board Member STB
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