Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Proposed Rail Merger in Iowa May Bring Significant Environmental Impacts

posted on Tuesday, September 6, 2022 in Energy News

A proposed $31 billion marriage between Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (CP) and Kansas City Southern (KCS) is currently before the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The largest expected change from this union would occur on the CP mainline between Sabula, Iowa, and Kansas City, Missouri, where the projected rail traffic would increase by more than 14 trains per day.

Rail cars on a trackIn fact, this marriage would more than quadruple the train traffic from Ottumwa to the Missouri border. Perhaps more concerning is the risk this union poses to Iowans with little, if any, benefits. The anticipated increase in hazardous materials being transported through Iowa, including Canadian tar sands crude oil, poses a potentially significant increased risk. On some sections of the CP track, the number of train cars carrying these hazardous materials will double or triple. For example, in Muscatine the number of train cars carrying hazardous material would increase from 54 daily to 189 a day .

Railroad crossing sign and lightsThe increased rail traffic will also lead to serious delays and severe traffic backups at railroad crossings, and negatively impact emergency response vehicles. The marriage would more than double crossing times. In Muscatine, the crossing time at the Mississippi Drive crossing would increase from 2 hours and 15 minutes to 5 hours and 45 minutes, or approximately 23% of every day.

Unfortunately, some communities including Muscatine, Davenport and Bettendorf have agreed to hold their peace in exchange for cash. If the STB approves the marriage, Davenport will be paid $10 million, and Bettendorf and Muscatine would each be paid $3 million. This is especially disconcerting given the significant environmental justice implications for these communities.  

Canadian Pacific train on snowy tracksIt is time to speak now to oppose this marriage. The STB is holding a public hearing on the merger September 13 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the RiverCenter in Davenport; an online public meeting will be held on September 19. There is a grassroots movement called Stop the Train; its online petition had gathered more than 580 signatures as of August 30.

To see how this rail union will impact Iowa, and the opportunities to speak see the Canadian Pacific Railway Limited and Kansas City Southern fact sheet.

  1. carbon pollution
  2. environmental justice