Wisconsin legislators send letters opposing GLBT rail line

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BELOIT - After the Great Lakes Basin Transportation rail plan was officially submitted to the federal Surface Transportation Board earlier this month, multiple Wisconsin legislators have sent letters objecting to the project.

State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, and State Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, expressed continued opposition the plan in letters sent to the Surface Transportation Board. The 270-mile rail plan would run from Indiana through Illinois and into Wisconsin. The plan is viewed by supporters as a way to bypass the heavily-trafficked Chicago freight transit hub. Opponents say the plan will drastically cut down on rural residents' quality of life and impact property values along the route.

Both Spreitzer and Loudenbeck echo complaints made by opposition activists against the plan, which also included the addition of an expressway. The company also filed for an order to exempt all stakeholders and investors in the plan to be confidential, which would result in a lack of much-needed transparency, according to opponents.

"Based on the GLBT's recent application, I have serious concerns over intent, potential investors and stakeholders and transparency," Spreitzer wrote. "The proposed route is a massive project that deserves a complete application, diligent oversight and full transparency for the sake of all the people and lives affected. We have not seen this needed transparency or diligence from GLBT."

The plan to build the railroad is expected to cost nearly $3 billion, plus $4 billion for the separate expressway and $1 billion for contingencies. The route remains unchanged in the official application filing. The original plan had the line going through Boone County in northern Illinois, but that plan was changed and the route now is planned to run west of Rockford and west of Beloit. The rail line is proposed to run from La Porte, Indiana to Milton, Wisconsin. If built, trains would run south from Milton, between Beloit and Janesville, before cutting into the Town of Beloit and heading into Illinois and onto Indiana, according to GLBT maps.

Opposition groups against the railroad still support a "no build, no action" stance on the project.

"While the issues related to GLBT's proposal are numerous, the comments provided in this letter are focused on three major decision items for the STB: completeness of the GLBT's application; confidentiality of GLBT's shareholders and their interest; and consideration of the entire project as one "connected action." Loudenbeck writes.

Both legislators have urged the STB to consider the entire scope of the proposed project. The reviewing body will rule on the plan, and no set timeline has been established for when a ruling would be released.

Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, wrote a previous letter to the STB requesting it reopen the public comment period on the route, but has not issued an updated letter on the plan.

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