Federal officials have their work cut out for them when the public comment period ends Friday and they begin reviewing a proposal to build a new 278-mile rail line through LaPorte, Porter and Lake counties and on to Wisconsin.
More than 3,000 comments have been received thus far about the project, which the U.S. Surface Transportation Board characterized as a strong response.
Comments were received from a variety of individuals and interests, including landowners and communities impacted by the proposal, railroads, various elected officials, opposition and advocacy groups, and schools.
"As a farmer's wife, I see the added stress this is causing to an already stressful business," wrote one letter writer. "Decide now and get it over."
Submissions were made by several of the counties, cities and towns along the propose route, as well as some communities not sure if they fall in the path. Many of these submissions include resolutions or letters opposing the project, including entities from Porter and Lake counties.
Purdue University Northwest wrote saying that if the rail line is built as proposed, it would force the school to move its robotic observatory in Lowell.
"If this rail line is built as proposed, PNW requests that GLBT (Great Lakes Basin Transportation) Inc. set aside $250k for costs associated with the facility's relocation," wrote the school.
Concern also was voiced by a few Native American groups, including the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
"There are several historic Potawatomi villages near the APE of the proposed Rail that we are interested in mitigating potential effects," the group wrote.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association also chimed in with its opposition to the project, vowing to combat it at all levels, including in Congress and the courts.
"The livelihoods of the farmers and ranchers in the path of this project are too important to ignore," the group wrote. "Again, we cannot jeopardize our food security for a project that is only intended to line the pockets of its investors at the expense of the ones who feed them."
The Chicago Botanic Garden, sharing the concern of others in the Chicago Wilderness coalition, said the proposed route has the potential to "degrade or destroy significant natural resources" and thus called for alternatives to be evaluated.
Additional comments on the project can be submitted electronically through the end of the business day Friday at www.stb.dot.gov, by clicking on the E–FILING link at the top left and then selecting Environmental Comments. Refer to docket number FD 35952 in all correspondence.
Written comments can be submitted to Dave Navecky, Surface Transportation Board, Docket No. FD 35952, 395 E St. SW, Washington, DC 20423-0001.
Frank Patton, chairman of the Great Lakes Basin Railroad, has said his proposal will undergo about a year and a half review by the surface transportation board before a final determination is made.
The rail line is being pitched as a bypass of the congested Chicago urban area.