By Bob Balgemann
BOONE COUNTY – More than 100 people packed the Boone County Board’s March 16 meeting to learn more about Great Basin Railroad’s proposed 278-mile route that would take it through eastern Boone County.
People from as far away as Rock County in Wisconsin and LaSalle County were there; no one who spoke liked the idea for a variety of reasons.
Before public comments began, county board Chairman Bob Walberg dispelled the notion that government officials knew about the rail line well in advance of the general public.
Information first was unveiled at a Rockford Metropolitan Agency for a planning meeting last fall, he said, and at that time the route was to go through Winnebago County. He said he recently was approached by a television reporter and told the route had been changed to include the east side of Boone.
The federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) will make the final decision, he said. The county only would be involved should eminent domain cases go through its court system. That would occur if the railroad’s offer to purchase right of way was rejected by the landowner.
He said he had contacted board chairmen in the 11 counties through which the line would go and found “they’re just not aware of it. You’re (residents) way out in front of this.”
So far, Walberg said the railroad company had not filed with the STB for permission to put in the tracks. As currently proposed, the route would start in Milton, Wis., extend through the Capron and Garden Prairie areas of Boone and conclude in LaPorte, Ind.
Need for rail space
The purpose of the bypass around Chicago would be to “expedite freight movements across the nation and provide additional capacity for growing railroad traffic,” according to a statement on the company’s website.
However, the Capron and Garden Prairie residents who spoke March 16 didn’t want up to 110 trains a day, going 70 mph, going through Boone County.
Garden Prairie resident Susan Charlesworth said freight trains can take a long time to clear a railroad crossing. That could disrupt emergency vehicles on their way to a call, not to mention school buses taking children to classes.
And what would the trains be carrying? She said she had heard garbage from the south and toxic materials from the north.
As another resident approached the podium, Chairman Walberg asked people not to applaud after each speaker but they did so anyway, ignoring his request.
Ron Nelson from Capron said the track “would be within 120 rods of Capron Elementary School. They talk about being concerned about the environment, but they’re not doing it.”
LaSalle County resident Susan Sack said a lot of plans were made “without informing people who were affected. This is private investors’ idea on how to make money.”
Three county board members weighed in on the discussion.
Brad Stark encouraged people to let the STB know how they feel about the plan. “They’re in Washington, D.C.,” he said of the board’s membership. “They don’t know where Boone County is.”
Cathy Ward said those at the meeting were looking to the board for leadership. She said the board should take a stand on the proposal “and it needs to be soon.” As for her opinion, she said, “I can’t see any advantage to the people of this county.”
Denny Ellingson talked about the upcoming informational meetings, one of which will be held April 19 in nearby Cherry Valley.
“That’s when we need to be heard,” he said.

Buy Viagra Overnight Delivery USA.