UPDATE: BELVIDERE (WIFR) – Those in opposition to the nearly 280 mile long Great Lakes Basin Railroad have their one and only chance to share their side of the story this week as the government agency puts together the profile.
"No amount of money can pay me off to stop this," said one woman who took the mic at Tuesday's Surface Transportation Board scoping meeting.
The potential impact of the proposed railway can be seen in the hundreds of people at the Community Building in Belvidere.
Laurie Bozeman, one of the organizers for Block GLB Railroad says she, like a lot of her neighbors, feels blindsided.
"It shakes me to the core because I feel like we were not informed by our county officials that this was something in the works for a while, there were some talks going on that we didn't know about," said Bozeman.
The Surface Transportation Board, the federal agency looking over the project, is listening to all concerns as a part of its environmental impact survey.
"We'll look at noise, vibration, air quality, traffic delays, impacts on farming operations, school bus routes, land use, water quality and wetlands," said Dave Navecky with the board. "It's a pretty comprehensive effort."
Boone County families and farmers say they are the most worried about the traffic construction will cause, the effects on their soil, and health hazards if the water supply is contaminated by a derailment. The overwhelming majority is doing everything in their power to bring this to a screeching halt.
"It's lousy," said Ron Nelson, a farmer near Capron. "If they're going for eminent domain and they get it and they just come in, what you've worked your whole life for is worth probably half of what it was before because you've got a railroad cutting it up."
Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau President Richard Beuth says this project would take away more than one percent of Boone County's farmland, costing $3.6 million every year.
He says it would also cut off about three to four more percent of farmland causing even more strain for farmers in their fields.
JANESVILLE (WIFR) – Hundreds of Stateliners are coming together in opposition of the planned Great Lakes Basin Rail Line.
Monday’s meeting at Janesville’s Craig High School was the Stateline’s first official public hearing on the proposed rail line that would run through several area towns in both Wisconsin and Illinois. About 300 people showed up to Monday’s meeting with 45 people speaking during the open comment part of the scoping hearing and many taking their full three minutes allotted.
Earlier in April, there were several “Rock Against the Rail” meetings in Rock County that drew as many as 300 people. The goal of the group is to bring organized opposition to public hearings. The hearings are being run by the Surface Transportation Board’s Office of Environmental analysis. That’s the federal government agency that will either approve or deny the project whose aim is to drastically reduce the amount of time it takes for trains to get through Chicago.
There will be three more public hearings over the next two days in the Stateline. The first is Tuesday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Community Building in Belvidere. Tuesday night’s hearing is from 5:30-8:00 in Rockford at Ellis Academy in the multi-purpose room and auditorium. On Wednesday, Rochelle Township High School will host a hearing from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.
If you are unable to attend any of these meetings, you can still submit your comments electronically by going to greatlakesbasinraileis.com.