GARY | Gary/Chicago International Airport officials remain hopeful key railroad agreements can be concluded by the end of this year, clearing the way for the resumption of construction of its $166 million runway expansion.
One agreement is due to be submitted to federal regulators this week and a second agreement between a railroad and various pipeline owners could be complete by the end of this year, AECOM project manager John Lukas told the airport authority board Monday.
The first agreement is between Norfolk Southern railroad and CSX. It is due to be submitted to the federal Surface Transportation Board this week, Lukas said.
Airport Interim Director B.R. Lane said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-South Bend, were instrumental in getting railroads to bring the agreement to federal regulators this week.
If federal regulators do not object to the track rights agreement, it should go into effect within 30 days, Lane said.
The other agreement involves Canadian National and various pipeline owners including NIPSCO and Citgo, whose pipelines run under the new railroad tracks built to make way for the airport's runway expansion.
The airport has no direct role in negotiating those licensing agreements, which spell out the rights of all parties, said airport authority lawyer Patrick Lyp.
Canadian National will not move its trains onto its new tracks until all the agreements above are final. Until Canadian National moves its trains onto the new tracks, the railroad embankment carrying its trains now cannot be taken down.
That embankment is blocking the expansion of the main runway to 8,900 feet from its current 7,000 feet. The concrete for 1,100 feet of the new runway has already been poured, with the rest waiting on the leveling of the embankment and the cleanup of contaminated soils.
The new tracks, which the airport paid more than $30 million to build, were essentially ready for use this summer, according to airport officials.