Saturday, June 28, 2008

Big NW Indiana News - Airport and Rail come to terms

Source Fox Business News
Canadian National Railway said today a four-party preliminary memorandum of understanding on the rail line relocation required for the expansion of Gary/Chicago International Airport (GCIA) should resolve a key concern that had been raised in opposition to CN's proposed acquisition of the principal lines of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Company (EJ&E).

GCIA, EJ&E, CSX Corporation, and Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS: 48.18, -0.61, -1.25%) signed the PMOU, which was announced earlier today. CN, while not a signatory to the PMOU, is committed to honor its terms upon regulatory approval of its EJ&E acquisition by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and its assumption of control of the EJ&E lines.

"CN welcomes this agreement and salutes key stakeholders for working cooperatively to resolve engineering issues related to GCIA's expansion," said E. Hunter Harrison, CN president and chief executive officer. "The end result will also ensure a fluid, effective rail network in Northwest Indiana. This is important to CN and to the region's economy.

"CN is particularly pleased that this agreement should mean the STB need not invest additional time and resources in examining concerns that had been raised by GCIA and others about the potential impact of our proposed purchase of the EJ&E on the GCIA's operations and expansion plans. We hope that resolving these issues, including concerns that the STB's Section of Environmental Analysis had indicated it would review as part of its environmental assessment, will help to expedite the STB's overall review of our transaction," Harrison said.

The joint agreement as it affects CN's EJ&E transaction calls for:

- Relocating the EJ&E line;

- Building a bridge over the existing NS Gary Branch to assure EJ&E continued access to primary customers, and

- Constructing a grade separation at Industrial Highway prior to relocating EJ&E operations.

"The joint agreement will give Northwest Indiana the rail and air transportation systems needed to support the region's economic vitality and to better serve the businesses that can bring good-paying jobs to the area," Harrison said.

"CN has a strong commitment to Northwest Indiana," Harrison said. "In addition, today's progress supports CN's planned investment in Kirk Yard, as part of its EJ&E acquisition. Our transaction could bring millions of dollars of private investment and employment growth potential to Gary, so Kirk Yard can once again thrive as a railcar-sorting hub."

Each year, CN spends roughly $20 million in Indiana and pays taxes of nearly $2.4 million. CN has roughly 250 employees who live in the state with a payroll of nearly $16 million.

CN plans to acquire the principal lines of the EJ&E for US$300 million and to spend an additional US$100 million to upgrade the EJ&E and construct new connections to improve the efficiency of its operations. The transaction would significantly reduce rail congestion in the urban core of Chicago and add much needed capacity to the U.S. rail network. CN is prepared to invest up to US$40-million in various mitigation measures.

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