Railroad Opponents Speak Out For First Time

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UPDATE: BOONE COUNTY (WIFR) -- People and counties unite in the fight for their land. A tense group is speaking out for the first time since they say they were blindsided, last month, with plans for a major railroad to be built in some of their backyards. Now railroad opponents in Boone County are gaining momentum.

It’s standing room only at a rare Boone County board meeting where hundreds pack into one room, some pouring into the halls, to voice their concerns over a plan to build an $8 billion railroad.

"It's about 200 yards from my property line, so I cannot fight it at all,” said Laurie Bozeman, who says she’s lived in northern Boone County more than 40 years. “They're not going to offer me anything. I'm just going to have to live with the unsightly views of the freight train and it land locks us."

Bozeman recently noticed her land is directly in the path mapped out for the Great Lakes Basin Railroad project, a track connecting Northern Indiana to Southern Wisconsin which designers anticipate will bypass busy traffic in Chicago. According to some of those organizers, that would cut shipping times in half at least they also say it will promote growth in the areas it runs through, but that Bozeman isn’t on board.

"Your home is your security and your safe place to go, and I feel like these guys just think it's okay to come in and take that away,” Bozeman worries. “When we move in, we don't move out. It's our home."

Opponents from some of the other ten counties are also voicing their displeasure, asking a room of nearly 200 to come together as one strong push-back force.

"The thing is I don't want to see this line put anywhere,” LaSalle County’s Carl Zimmerman said. “I don't want it on my neighbors ground, I don't want to shove it into the next county."

"We need to know more,” Susan Sack, who is also from LaSalle County, added. “We need to be able to protect ourselves and our children and our future."

"It goes from Boone County, all the way across and down, it does not touch Dekalb County. I want to know what it is that they said and did that it's not going through their county," Bozeman questioned.
Railroad organizers have already submitted paperwork to the surface transportation board, no hearing has been scheduled as of yet. Boone County says if people want their opinions to be heard they should write letters to the S.T.B.

Some opponents have created a Facebook page to rally support. It can be found by searching “Citizens Against ‘The Great Lakes Basin Railroad’ Project.”

UPDATE: BOONE COUNTY (WIFR) -- The idea for a new railroad system through Boone County is leaving some families with more questions than answers, many afraid to lose their home.

One landowner says she's been in her Boone County home since 1956 and she just found out a train could soon be chugging straight through her property and there may be nothing she can do about it. Dozens like her said they were too angry to go on camera after hearing the news.

Boone County's board says it's too early to make any judgments. Railroad organizers are expected to hold public hearings by April.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – Thousands of jobs could be coming to the Stateline, thanks to a new railroad project expected to bring business from Indiana to Wisconsin and now we’ve learned the 200 plus mile-long Great Lakes Basin Railroad is changing its course.

To the delight of Boone County Chairman Bob Walberg, the Great Lakes Basin Railroad is heading to his neck of the woods. Walberg says it’s a solution to the lack of freight the county has wanted for more than a decade.

“This rail would provide a great economic engine for the economics and freight part of it. And possibly with that extra rail line, it may even get used by passenger if that ever became a reality,” says Walberg.

The route, which previously ran to the west of Rockford, is being moved to the east side of Belvidere because of environmental challenges in Brodhead, Wisconsin. With so many state parks and water obstacles, the prices would have jumped because of added bridges.

Found Frank Patton says everything worked out for the better.

“If we went all the way through, once we got out of Winnebago County, we couldn’t get into Wisconsin. That was the killer. We ended up with a better route I think. It’s all a part of the process,” says Patton.

With the completion of the project still a few years away and the many hoops the rail group will have to jump through, Walberg is not getting too excited.

“We’ve got to regulate our enthusiasm a bit knowing that time will require something like this to take place and also there will need to be a lot of pieces to fall in line. We’ll be anxious to work with everyone on this project,” says Walberg.

Patton says the new maps will be re-drawn in the next few days before 8 to 10 public meetings will be set up along the route, including Rockford.

The founder says if everything remains on schedule, the entire project will be complete in 2019 or 2020.

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