Marquette says railroad merger wouldn’t increase train activity as drastically as in other towns

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City of Marquette officials say the merger between Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern, if approved by the federal Surface Transportation Board, would not increase train activity in the community as drastically as in other towns along the rail line. Mayor Steve Weipert said, although the merger would mean an additional six to seven trains passing through town each day, the trains would be running north and south, not crossing the highway and utilizing the Marquette rail yard as this train is. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

City of Marquette officials say the merger between Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and Kansas City Southern (KC), if approved by the federal Surface Transportation Board, would not increase train activity in the community as drastically as in other towns along the rail line. 

 

Canadian Pacific Railway announced the completion of its acquisition of Kansas City Southern in December, a move that would pave the way for the first single-line rail network linking the United States, Mexico and Canada. 

 

“CPKC will become the backbone connecting our customers to new markets, enhancing competition in the U.S. rail network and driving economic growth across North America while delivering significant environmental benefits. We are excited to reach this milestone on the path toward creating this unique truly North American railroad,” said CP President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Creel in a statement.

 

According to Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern (CPKC), the $31 million merger would increase train traffic, more than doubling the number of trains on the combined system’s north-south spine in three years. The railroads attributed that increase to drawing traffic from other railroads, diverting highway truck traffic and unlocking new commodities markets.

 

CPKC anticipates the number of trains will grow most in CP’s former Milwaukee Road routes from the Twin Cities and Chicago to Sabula Junction, then down to Kansas City. Its Marquette Subdivision, which stretches along the Mississippi River from River Junction, Minn., to Sabula Junction, would see an increase from 7.7 trains per day to 14.3.

 

The number of trains will increase even more in the Davenport and Ottumwa Subdivisions due to the convergence of train traffic from St. Paul and Chicago at Sabula Junction. Davenport, for example, will rise from 7.1 to 21.6 trains per day, while Ottumwa will go from 4.2 to 18.4.

 

With merger approval, CPKC said it would also extend train blocks and train runs.

 

This projected growth has spurred complaints from several Iowa cities, including Davenport and Dubuque. The city of Dubuque, which is expected to see daily train traffic go up from around 11 per day to 18, has asked the Surface Transportation Board to reject the merger, citing prolonged crossing blockages, vibration damage to surrounding buildings and discouragement of new businesses in neighborhoods along the tracks.

 

Train traffic is also a source of contention in Marquette, where residents and visitors contend with (sometimes prolonged) blockages at crossings, particularly at the bridge approach intersection and near Casino Queen Marquette. There have also been noise complaints regarding train horns and the building of trains in the railyard.

 

But mayor Steve Weipert said the city of Marquette, which issued a letter supporting the merger when it was proposed in spring 2021, should not be as concerned as other communities.

 

“In March 2021, when they were first considering this, CP said they would be running an additional six to seven trains per day through Marquette. They will all run north and south,” he said. “They will not be stopping in Marquette and will not be blocking the highway.”

 

Once the merger was filed, the city was told that original intent remains the same, according to Weipert.

 

“That will be one train every three to four hours going north and south,” he reiterated. “They will not be utilizing the railyard in Marquette to take apart and build trains,” which contributes to crossing blockages. “They are going to do that in other towns.”

 

Weipert said deputy city clerk Rex Svoboda is researching past railroad mergers and how cities were able to work with railroads to mitigate concerns. For the city of Marquette, train whistles are one of those.

 

“We’re hoping, in cooperation with the railroad, that we can mitigate some noise,” he stated. “We want to do our best to mitigate what we can to make life in Marquette easier.”

 

But Weipert also stressed the city doesn’t have control over federal interstate commerce.

 

“People in power determine what will happen,” he said. “No one wants additional trains going through town, but we’re limited in what we can request.”

 

The Surface Transportation Board, which is currently reviewing the merger, is expected to make a decision by late 2022.

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