MORRIS – Legislators are stepping up their fight against the proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad, which would go through Grundy and LaSalle counties, as well as many others.
State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, co-sponsored a resolution filed May 26 in the Illinois House of Representatives that opposes the proposed railroad and a highway that would run along it. It has been forwarded to the House Rules Committee.
Welter said that in his days as chairman of the Grundy County Board, he was against the proposal and still is. That board formally opposed it in May 2016.
“We were one of the first counties to pass a resolution opposing it,” Welter said.
Since then, counties and residents throughout the 275-mile route from southern Wisconsin to northeastern Indiana have spoken out against a proposal that Great Lakes Basin Railroad leadership says will alleviate a notorious railway bottleneck through the Chicago area.
The resolution was entered by state Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee.
“The main thing is that it would cut through farm land,” Welter said of his opposition to the proposed project. “Farming is a large economic driver for the area.”
GLBR co-founder Frank Patton and consultants came to Morris Community High School in May 2016 to discuss the proposal. Hundreds of residents showed up, and most were not happy with Patton’s responses to their questions.
“We hoped to get a lot of answers and I think we left with even more questions,” Welter said.
Farmers are concerned that the railroad would go through their property without regard for their rights as landowners, Welter said.
“The idea of using quick-take or grabbing up land for a private project without negotiating with landowners is an issue for me,” Welter said. “I’m a huge proponent of landowner rights.”
On May 1, GLBR filed an application to build the rail with the Surface Transportation Board. The latest plan includes the proposed Daniel Burnham Expressway, which would run from Interstate 80 west of Morris to Indiana, where it would again meet with the Interstate 80/94 expressway. It is meant to serve as a replacement for the long-discussed Illiana Expressway.
Along with that application, GLBR filed a motion for a protective order in an effort to keep information about its top 10 shareholders private.
On June 2, the STB requested financial information from GLBR, denied the request to keep shareholders confidential, and asked for a list of cities and counties it would serve because GLBR only supplied county information. The board gave GLBR until June 22 to submit the information.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, sent a letter in May to the STB opposing the project, citing constituent opposition to it.