Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chicago Suburbs STAR Line Still Alive

The Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, a lightly used freight line that circles the city of Chicago has for years been eyed for a new inter-suburban Metra service known as the STAR line. However, Canadian National's acquisition of the "J" had put that plan in jeapoardy because CN wants to increase traffic over the line, which connects its former Grand Trunk Western, Illinois Central and Wisconsin Central mainlines.

Now it appear prospects for the STAR line are brighter, according to the Daily Herald newspaper. After the Surface Transportation Board approved the acquisition, CN and Metra have begun talking again. To make its acquisition work, CN is going to have to increase capacity and make other improvements to the property. The costs could exceed $100 million.

Metra hopes to piggyback on this added capacity, according to its Executive Director Phil Pagano. Being able to utilize improvements paid for by CN would help offset some of the costs it would have to incur if the STAR line was the principal player on the EJ&E line rather than a supporting actor.

"We've had conversations with CN - we intend to work with them to get this project accomplished," Pagano said last week.

The ideal solution would be to coordinate joint use of the tracks instead of separate tracks, which would be prohibitively expensive.

"Separate tracks could cause complications for us both," Pagano said, adding CN has agreed to talk about track sharing first before other options.

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