By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE – The Boone County Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12, planning to take a position on the proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad (GLBR) route that would go through the Capron and Garden Prairie areas.

If such a stand is adopted, it will be sent to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) office in Washington, D.C. The STB will decide the fate of the 278-mile long bypass around busy Chicago.

In addition, the Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis and Administration, enforcement arm of the STB, also must approve it.

The new route is being proposed to provide additional capacity and make it easier to move freight traffic. Track would be laid from Milton, Wis., to LaPorte, Ind.

The county board’s seven standing committees have spent the last week and a half exploring impacts of the railroad from the standpoint of their purpose for being. Among those purposes are health, public safety, finance, taxes, roads, capital improvements, planning, building, and zoning.

Those committees are administrative and legislative, finance, salaries and taxation, roads and capital improvements, health and human services, public safety, planning, building and zoning, and city-county coordinating.

Each of the committees consists of five county board members, with city-county also having five Belvidere City Council members. They consider various issues and make recommendations to the full 12-member board.

In this case there won’t be any recommendations, they will just report on their conclusions.

For example, roads and capital improvements looked at such issues as drainage, crossing rights, and right of way acquisition.

A logical way to go

Committee member Brad Stark said he thought this was a logical way to explore the impact of the railroad.

“You have to respect the process and follow it,” he said.

The county board is not directly involved in the decision-making process. An opinion, if it is taken, will be one of many the STB receives from a comment period, which has begun and will conclude June 15.

Board member Cathy Ward said previously residents are looking to the board for leadership, and that it should take a position.

However, Frank Sutton, president and chief executive officer of Great Lakes Basin Train Corporation, said May 5 that “it’s way too early to take an opinion since, at this time, no one knows for sure what the route will be.”

It previously was to go through the Rockford area. Then it changed to the eastern side of Boone County. The original starting point was Broadhead, Wis. Now it’s Milton, Wis. The track was to end in Michigan City, Ind. Now the termination point is in LaPorte, Ind.

If the STB approves the project, it will have a recommended route and mitigation, according to information provided by Boone County officials.

A series of scoping meetings was held in March along the proposed route, with one of them at the Community Building in Belvidere. As expected, reaction generally was negative with a wide range of concerns being expressed.

County officials recently reported on some of the suggestions and concerns that were offered locally on April 19.

It was suggested that social and economic impacts be studied as well as getting an opinion from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It was stated that the Farm Bureau would oppose the project unless economic benefit outweighs the cost.

Among the concerns were:

Emergency traffic and buses taking children to and from school being delayed at railroad crossings.

Another was the potentially negative impact on home property taxes.

Concerns also looked at the impact on the Village of Capron and the special needs children along with the waterways and the Kishwaukee River.

The last of the concerns looked at the effects on the natural features in Spring Township.


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